• Richard Scrimger

garbage day panic

Garbage day. I hear the truck coming, and flee the keyboard in the middle of my sentence (I wanted to break the word off -- senten -- but my inner editor wouldn't let me. What a party pooper). How many sounds are guaranteed to kick-start my adrenaline? I can still recall my first alarm clock experience. Twelve years old, taking over a friend's early morning paper route for a week. I borrowed my dad's travel alarm, and set it for 5:00. When it went off right in my ear with a sound like Judgment Day I thought my heart would stop. I have never -- not even when I first saw The Wizard of Oz and the Witch appeared out of nowhere and started throwing fireballs -- never been so startled. My limbs twitched uncontrollably for hours. But alarm clock panic fades. By the end of the week I was able to take the early morning bell in stride. By the time I had to get up early for summer jobs and university classes (all right, one early class. I was an artsie) I had to put the alarm on the other side of the room to prevent myself from flicking it off and rolling over. Sirens don't startle and fill me with dread. Nor does thunder -- not even that right overhead thunder that's more of a bang than a rumble. My cell phone sure doesn't do it -- most of the time I can hardly hear the damn thing. School bells, car horns, backfires ... nope. I'm sure an artillery barrage would terrify me, but I've lived a sheltered life, never heard one. No, for me, the only sound that's pretty much guaranteed to send me from my typical dreaming state into one of panic is the sound of air brakes, and a heavy truck gearing down. Because that means it's garbage day, and I have forgotten to put out the plastic bin and clear plastic bags. Why I have forgotten -- why I don't put the garbage out the night before -- is a mystery. Short-term memory loss? Stupidity? Subconscious fear of overplanning? Deep-seated attachment to the past? Did I say stupidity? But forgotten I have, three weeks out of four, and for some reason wherever I live the garbage guy comes early. So the hiss of air brakes from down the street means I have ten or fifteen seconds to get downstairsintomyshoesoutthedoorandtothecurb carrying the week's refuse. Failure is unthinkable -- another week of garbage piling up. Must not happen (though it does, on occasion). This morning is a success. I dash downstairs at breakneck speed, shouting, Wait, to the garbage guy, Wait! lugging my plastic bin and two clear plastic bags to the curb as the big truck pulls up. He smiles tolerantly down at me, a big bearded guy in an orange vest and gloves. With my stuff sorted and stowed, he vaults casually onto the rear bumper, hanging onto the hand hold as the truck takes off. (When I was a kid we could imagine no cooler way to travel than back of the garbage truck.) Next week it'll happen all over again. I'll be up early working, and hear the rumble, and leap from the keyboard in the middle of (your face, inner editor).

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Richard Scrimger | scrimgerr@gmail.com | Toronto, ON, Canada