Sustainable Trash

Dear Garbage Collector:

I noticed you haven’t been coming to pick up my garbage as often as before. Is it the bad weather or all the talks of budget cuts are trickling down to garbage collection already?

Who says Americans are not productive anymore. Just look at the statistics, the average American produces four pounds of garbage a day, which is about one thousand four hundred and sixty pounds of wastes per person per year.  That makes us the number one trash producers in the world.

In this land of affluence, it seems unquestioned that we should be so profligate in our waste making. The American wasteful way is seen visibly displayed at every major holiday. We wrap, box, ribbon and decorate every trifle we give as a gift. This ritual of wrapping all things small and big, when did it start and why does it persist, I have wondered of late.

It is as if we hold this truth to be self-evident that all things worthy of having should be wrapped and packaged. But if we really believed in this truth, we must also entertain the corollary belief that once packaged things become disposable?

I welcome the philosophical debates about “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” or “are we what we own?” They make great arguments and certainly help us teach our kids all about what living the good life should look and feel like.

Last time I went to check my storage facility, I got worried, it looks like I am outgrowing my 10×10 space.  I am seriously considering taking that three months special for an upgrade.

I see my neighbor just got a new plasma television. Looks good. Hate to think I am the only one on the block with that dinosaur tube, maybe I should get one too. It’s not that I want to accumulate so much material goods, I do see myself as a discipline, even thrifty person. Benjamin Franklin is my favorite founding father. He had wisdom. Think he was the one who coined the saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned?”

Yeah. It’s great to live the American Dream. When you come next, can you remember to bring me another bin, I seem to have more garbage to throw away now that I am working from home.

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Good Neighbors

Dear Neighbor:

I know you are moving away soon. It has been good living next to you. Despite our proximity, it is embarrassing that we don’t really know each other very well. I must say I have enjoyed our casual hellos and occasional encounters near our mailboxes.

I guess in the good old days we would have gotten together for a farewell dinner, but we are living in the days of bowling alone and a parting ceremony seems oddly outdated, if not out-of-place for you and me, people who only know each other peripherally.

I have asked myself though, “Could we have become better neighbors?” Seems we were always so busy. Work, family and just our everyday chores kept us all occupied. We never had that perfect opportunity to properly introduce ourselves or strike up a heart-to-heart conversation or share a meal together. I know they say, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

I must confess, however, that there were those mischievous times when the notion of what if I demonstrated some neighborly gesture, invited you over for coffee, would you construe that as an act of intrusion or welcome that as a declaration of friendship.

I will never know since that was a hypothetical. The only exchange of notes in retrospect that broke our boundary for a while was when we had to negotiate the best way to deal with the noisy morning hours when neither your family or mine could rest peacefully because of new neighbors who moved on top of your apartment. We worked it out like good neighbors should.

These days neighbors’ spats seem more the norm. We have all read about those idyllic gated communities where people thought they were living amidst communal bliss, but only to discover that there was more contentions than charm. From afar these  neighborhoods offer us an imagined world of grand living, an amalgam of houses where happy people and wishful desires melt to form a perfect union of collectivism.

I have lived in a neighborhood before. That was long ago. Our neighbors on the right were Eleanor and Joe, and their adorable Pekingese dog, “Lady” who always had a happy bark for us. The Nessabaums were on our left, they were friendly enough, but it was their lovely white cat, “Noodle” who could not stop coming over our house because she simply enjoyed dining on sardines. Ah, those uncomplicated times.

Funny thing about neighborhoods. They can be anywhere. They can be big or small, rich or poor, but they share an uncanny similarity in that all neighborhoods make people feel a sense of belonging.

I don’t know where your next stop is; wherever it is, I wish you luck. My last abode was New York City. Before than Hong Kong. With each change of abode, I learned to be more adaptable, but not affable. Truth is, I don’t know how all this migration and this idea of global citizenship will ultimately impact on our sense of neighborhood. If everyone is always on the move, who will keep the neighborly feelings alive?

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