14 March 2006

Trash Cans

I live on the 7th floor, with four other apartments opening off a small, rectangular area. Garbage pick-up here is done by throwing your trash out into the stairwell and waiting for the cleaners to pick it up, twice a day. Most of the people in my building, on all floors, don’t bother to double bag, tie the top closed, or even use a trash bag. It is nasty, especially when fish innards are involved. A while back, the management put up a notice asking people to take more care with their refuse and to possibly purchase a trash can.

Two or three weeks ago, I bought a lovely red, plastic bin with a top. I was very proud of my neatness and hoped the neighbors would follow suit. Instead, they started dumping things in my bin, like orange peels and cigarette butts, and open bags of trash. I would remove them on a daily basis. I thought maybe they didn’t realize it was my personal can, so wrote my apartment number on the lid.

Things were fine for awhile, until one morning I woke up to find my trash can had been stolen! It happened between 11PM and 6AM, so had to be a neighbor. The next Saturday, I bought another red bin for my apartment, and a large blue one for the neighbors. I wrote my apartment number all over mine, and the floor number all over the other. I thought the neighbors would be pleased. All that day, I peered through the peephole every time I heard someone coming or going. The trash bins were still there. Or at least until the 9:30PM check. Both had been taken!

After the first theft, I debated about how I would notify management or ask the cleaning staff if they had seen it. On my way out to work, I drew a quick sketch of the item in question, and wrote my apartment number below it. Upon meeting the ladies downstairs, I did a mime/drawing re-enactment of the crime. I think they understood. One of them mimed back how she removed my garbage every day and then replaced the lid. We looked at each other, shrugged our collective shoulders, and went off to our daily jobs.

I also tried calling the management office, which sent over a representative who spoke no English. Again, I drew a picture and did an impressive imitation of someone stealing my garbage cans. I think the guy nodded his head in agreement just so that he could get away.

My next step was to make a trip down the road to the management office. I finally found someone who spoke English well enough to understand the problem. She said to go back to my place and the building manager would come by. He did, and had been briefed on the situation, but had a very limited English vocabulary. I thought he said he would call the owners of the other apartments on my floor.

I have since called him, and I think he said he talked to the owners but that no one has seen my trash bins. I figure it has to be a neighbor because at 9 or 10pm, they, or their friends are the only ones on this floor. I walk down the stairs, but everyone else takes the elevator, so it couldn’t have been someone from another floor. Anyway, it is maddening, and worse, the trash situation is back to what it was, piles of rotting garbage in the hall.

I am starting Vietnamese classes next week.