Friday, August 7, 2015

Sticking it to the Joneses

Every Tuesday morning the garbage man visits my neighborhood. He's usually there sometime between 8 and 9.

So I wait until Tuesday morning when I'm on my way to work, to drag the large garbage container to the curb for pick up. (Recycling is every other Tuesday, just in case you were dying to know.)

Without fail, I'm always, always, always the last person on my block to put my garbage out. I'm the neighborhood derelict it would appear — and by a large margin too.

It starts the evening before, when each of the residents on my street, with one notable exception, has their garbage out and ready for collection — a full 15+ hours before pickup.

The catalyst for revolution.
Why? I have no idea.

And what follows later Tuesday afternoon is even more baffling.

When I come home, each and every can, with one notable exception, is gone. I have no idea if my neighbors drive home midday to put their garbage cans away, or if they all just get home from work early and it's their first order of business.

I'm sure there's a PhD out there who could explain the group think that goes into such communal habit forming. And I can say that, at least initially, my lack of participation was totally accidental.

This is all about as important as it sounds, which is to say not very.

I get it.

And I wouldn't have thought much more about it if a neighbor hadn't confirmed my paranoia by mentioning that he "noticed" that I put my cans out "later."

If we're getting technical here, and since it matters to some, my garbage can sits out the shortest amount of time. Welp, no matter. If my garbage can schedule was unintentional before, it's not now.

Now it's my passive-aggressive way of saying to my neighbor and anybody else who might share his view that, "Just because this is how you do things doesn't make it right. Dammit!"

Demonstrations like mine are how people who call themselves grown-ups occasionally have to assert themselves.

Demonstrations like these should also make a man stop, take stock of himself and realize that this is exactly the behavior that can slowly mount and ultimately lead one to become a colossally small-minded jackass.

Me on the left along with a few my equally less domesticated
neighborly friends. We use these tools to rip through
arbitrary neighborhood customs. 
There are few testing grounds that provide a greater litmus test for what a jerk you might, or might not be, than by gauging the small behaviors you exhibit to those living closest to you.

Do you let your grass get a foot long before cutting it? Does the rest of your lawn look like it could serve as sanctuary for the endangered white rhino?

Do you have a car on blocks sitting in your driveway? Do you still have a driveway? Is your lawn the driveway? Does the mere concept of a driveway strike you as optional?

Do you throw loud parties without giving your neighbors notice, much less an invitation?

How about a dog that barks incessantly? Got one of those?

Each of these are common sense behaviors that most of us avoid. But as we all know, common sense is a relative term.

We get along great with our neighbors and when we've spent time with them, they're great. I want to be a positive in our neighborhood and I really, really don't want to be "that guy."

The good news is, it would appear that I'm not.

A couple days ago, I put out my garbage and recycling at exactly the same time a neighbor was leaving his at the end of his driveway. On the way home that day his can was still sitting at the curb.

From behind my windshield I nodded my approval at the scene.

Yes, the rebellion burns slowly but brightly here in my corner of suburban Madison, Wisconsin where we continue to conform but in our own unique way.

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