5. Wet garbage

Does wet garbage have to be wet? Or can it just be moist?

We hadn’t moved into our condo yet. We owned it, but our house hadn’t sold. We were stretched between two homes, two mortgages, and two very different lifestyles.

After we closed, the condo board recommended we attend the upcoming annual owners meeting. We’d meet our new neighbors, and see how the condo association operates.

What fun, we thought! Annual meeting. Big social event. The building has 30 units, so we’d probably meet 50-60 new neighbors. It’d be like an indoor block party, but with Roberts Rules of Order. What should I wear?

So we went. No to 50-60 neighbors. No to block party feel. Yes to Roberts Rules of Order.

There were maybe 15 residents at the meeting. As new owners, we were introduced, and then the meeting got to the pre-set agenda: re-election of the board members, approving the annual budget, and re-emphasizing some rules that some residents had been neglecting. The annual meeting was over in 25 minutes.

One of the rules that was apparently being neglected was the wet garbage rule. Only wet garbage can go down the wet garbage chute. Certainly made sense to me.

But… wet garbage. Hmmm. Not a phrase I was familiar with. I pictured the little yellow plastic bag that sat on our sink when I was a kid, before we had a garbage disposal. Mom would put potato peels, egg shells, old fruit, and food scraps from plates in it. All of it was garbage, and most of it was wet. And pungent. Everything else – the dry stuff – went in the trash can. There was a clear distinction between trash and garbage.

When we got home from the annual meeting, I initiated the wet garbage discussion with my wife. Will we have to keep one of those little baggies on the sink to separate out the wet garbage? No, she assured me. Wet garbage is simply the term for our non-recycling trash can.

We’ve always had two trash cans in our kitchen: one for paper/plastic/glass/aluminum recycling, and the other for everything else. The everything-else can includes items that could be called wet, but also items that would definitely be called dry. According to my wife, wet garbage = the everything-else trash can.

While I wanted to believe my wife’s liberal interpretation of the wet garbage rule, the annual meeting had put the fear of God in me. What if my wife were wrong? (Hasn’t happened in 30+ years, but this could be the time.) And what if someone saw us throwing our trash bag down the wet garbage chute, and knew that there was dry trash in that bag, snuggling up next to wet garbage? Would we be fined? Or publicly humiliated for putting moist garbage down the wet garbage chute?

I suspect we’ll be able to live with the wet garbage rule, and all the other rules. They seem nitpicky at first, but I guess they need to be spelled out when 30 households share walls, ceilings, floors and wet garbage chutes.

That annual meeting was the first hint of the real difference between living in a house and a condo. We began to understand that house-to-condo is more than an address change and less square footage. We’re changing lifestyles. Dramatically.

We’re reaping big benefits, to be sure: less maintenance responsibility, fewer expenses, and consequently more ability to travel. But we pay dearly for those benefits: less autonomy, more rules set by other people, less control over our lives. It’s like a political discussion between a libertarian, a republican and a democrat.

Bottom line: there are gains to be had in our condo lifestyle. But those gains do not come free.

6 thoughts on “5. Wet garbage

  1. Lorenzo, you definitely have too much undesignated time on your hands. Concerned over the aqua content of trash? The other 35-45 residents were out in the jungle, just trying to not get eaten alive. Such is among the ultimate anxieties accompanying advanced age.

    I applaud you for having sufficient connective tissue to get up and put your feet on the floor this morning. It must be a job just finding the ground. I can’t imagine being as old as you are; as a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone should be allowed to be that old.

    I know your memory shot craps years ago, but do you somehow recall giving me that old tintype, years ago? We were talking and drinking late one night in Pittsburgh around six p.m. (yours was warm milk…mine was not). You started a sentence off with “when I was a young man”, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

    It’s a picture of you taken by Matthew Brady. You’re shaking hands with some guy who looks like Catherine of Aragon when she still had a head. I hope to get it back soon. I sent it to the Smithsonian but they can’t use it, they say it predates world history or something.

    I’m gonna help ya out here, old man, and offer the thought that you could fill your half-vast unoccupied time by becoming a mentor to Those Who Am Trash Stupefied (TWATS), and adopt the slogan, “Just Stuff It”.

    Consider that there are many channels of mentorship for someone as decrepit as yourself. There’s uncharted water for those seeking guidance in “How To Gum Rough Cowhide Into Supple Leather”, “Turning Applesauce Into A Yummy Treat” and “Multitasking With Metamucil”, as well as more practical topics such as “How To Stop Biofeedback Before It Gets You” and “Sinus Drainage At Home”.

    Ponder whilst you wander aimlessly around, and if you still know what you were reflecting on after you finish reflecting, then it’s likely time for a nap. Don’t overdo it, buddy. And remember to flush.

  2. Nitpicking in your condo? You should live in a condo with 92 units — some owners of which spend their retirement running around complaining about others or confronting the manager with perceived damage to themselves, their unit or their car.

  3. Being a member of the board – I would say you did a great job of describing this small segment of condo life. I had never heard of wet garbage before either but it certainly creates images in my mind that reinforces what our garbage looks like.

  4. I have been a student of Spanish (with marginal success) and have delved the mysteries of The Dreaded Subjunctive. We don’t learn about the subjunctive in English grammar. But Larry did! There it is : contrary to fact – “What if my wife were wrong?”

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