Saturday, February 2, 2019


I went over to the recycling center today with a load of paper.

We actually have bins for that here in Our Little Town – nice big ones that are generally more than enough to keep two week’s worth of paper, cardboard, glass, and plastic that someday you hope will be turned into something else.  It’s one of the nice things about the place. 

Although I never know if I’m doing it right so sometimes it is a bit odd, hauling it all out to the curb every other week and vaguely hoping that it gets taken away and not left there with a passive aggressive note about how other people can handle the recycling rules and wouldn't it be nice if we could all learn to pitch in and be good neighbors?  It’s the midwest, after all.  Passive Aggressive is kind of an art form around here.  Having grown up in the Northeast Corridor, I’m more used to Aggressive Aggressive (“get your act together or we will cut you”) so I’m never sure what to do when people try to be passive aggressive to me.  Mostly I don’t even notice – it doesn’t register at all.  This probably annoys the sorts of people who try to be passive aggressive with me and makes them think that I am trying to do that to them in return, which I would find amusing except that, as described, it pretty much goes over my head unless there is an explicit threat involved and then it’s not really passive aggressive anymore.  So I just put out the recycling and hope for the best.

So far, no notes of any kind.

Usually the bins are more than enough, but recently there were two problems that individually would not have required a special trip to the recycling center but combined were enough to cross that threshold.

First, we’re trying to make some headway in cleaning the basement, which has become the Storage Space of Last Resort and is therefore filled with vast quantities of things that really don’t need to be in my house anymore.  Anyone need a 2600-baud modem?  Got one right here!  We ended up with a lot of paper to be recycled.

And second, the recycling truck comes by at the crack of dawn – usually before we’re even awake on a school day – so if you forget that it’s Recycling Day or if you make a strategic error and assume that a particular federal holiday would also be a city holiday and push your recycling day back 24 hours except that the city apparently does not celebrate that holiday, there is no time to fix it and you end up with an uncollected bin for a month and stuff just piles up around the place. 

It’s a bad combination.

This run was all about paper.  As an academic I live in a world made of paper and office supplies, and as a historian I generally tend to hang onto things because Archives and all that.  But at some point you have to ask if anyone, least of all yourself, will ever want to look at any of it for any conceivable reason.

And, sadly, the answer is often “no.”

So this afternoon about a decade of lecture notes went into the recycling dumpster.  I’ve got it all in electronic format, on multiple storage drives in case one dies, so from a practical vantage there’s no real change here.  And it is nice to have made at least a small open space in the vast collection of nonsense that is down there.  We’re going to keep at it whenever the weather is conducive (i.e. warm enough to avoid frostbite in my own house, which was definitely not last week) and we have a moment or two to devote to it (i.e. probably not once the semester gets rolling).

It’s a strange feeling to let go of so much of this, nevertheless.

But perhaps someday it will be made into new paper for me to write new class lectures upon, and the great circle of academic life will be complete.


KimK said...

How does the recycling center work? Do they ask for your ID and rights to firstborn, etc.? Or do you just drive up and dump some stuff off?

David said...

They're pretty relaxed, actually.

You drive up to the little attendant hut, tell them you're from Our Little Town, and tell them what you have to drop off. They'll point you to one of the numbered dumpsters, and you just heave the stuff in.

Unless you have a huge pile of stuff (like multiple minivan-loads) or are trying to get rid of electronics or appliances, they generally don't charge you. And even when they do it's pretty nominal.

It's a nice deal.