There is a narrow passage at the side my house that serves as a pathway from the sidewalk to my backyard since there is no alley at the rear of my place.  This 28 inch wide passage (Yes, I’ve measured it!) also serves a row of six townhouses that front on 7th Street since they back onto the side of my house and access to their small rear patios is through the same path. This is also “trashcan alley” the path by which one hypothetically rolls one’s trash receptacles out to the sidewalk and retrieves them when empty.   Now I have to say that the not-so-bad-looking older guy – about my age - at the end of the passage is very dutiful about rolling out his green (trash) and blue (recyclables) receptacles each Sunday evening for the Monday morning pick up.  (Parenthetically, I suspect the guy is a homophobe given that my two or three attempts to engage him in neighborly conversation when I first moved in were meet with icy silence.  Too bad really. Maybe he’d seen my partner and me “frolicking” naked in the kitchen or something.  He has long, wavy silver hair framing his handsome face quite nicely. But there you go. I tried.)

One morning a few weeks ago, it was a Wednesday I think, I was sitting on my front porch having a cup of coffee and reading the Washington Post as is my habit when we’re not having snow, sleet or freezing rain.   As per the usual, the sidewalk was littered with blue and green trash cans since, unlike my homophobic neighbor and me, the rest of the neighbors don’t seem inclined to retrieve them once the DPW guys roar up, dump them into their truck and then toss the cans back to the sidewalk.  Mostly to the sidewalk.  There is the occasional misdirected one that winds up halfway over the curb.  I don’t blame the trash guys – after all it’s the homeowners’ responsibility to retrieve them, which activity, never happens with the aforementioned two exceptions. Sure I get it. The young professionals who populate Capital Hill simply don’t have the time as they rush to work.   As per usual, the colorful cans looked like a large scale set up for bumper pool being played by the Jolly Green Giant.

As I was getting into the Style Section, I glanced up to see a family – mid 30’s husband and wife, blond eleven or twelve year old daughter and a six year old son – all biking down the sidewalk. The wife, in the lead, and the six year old managed to dodge their way through the green and blue maze (Daddy was some distance to the rear no doubt so that he could watch over the entire family as they made their way to work and school) but the young girl swerved, lost her balance, crashed into one of the blue recycle cans and went tumbling to the sidewalk her bike arching over her head.  I jumped up thinking “damn those yuppies” and sure enough as the young woman worked to extricate herself from the bike now pinning her leg to the curb, she screamed.  Mom came running back, picked her up and I could see that the poor girl had a bloody nose.  Glad that it wasn’t anything more serious.  I did offer my help but Mom said it wasn’t necessary.

Well, naturally, I became pissed at my lazy, irresponsible thirty-something neighbors.  What to do?  None were home and I didn’t know any of them anyway.  The occasional nod “hello” but nothing resembling the urban neighborliness most of my peers practice as a habit.  (Homophobe neighbor excepted.)  So in what I assumed would be a vain attempt to correct the situation, I picked up all the cans and placed them in a neat row at the back of the sidewalk.  Then I typed up several notices reading as follows:

“Please do not leave your trash cans on the sidewalk.  This morning a young girl while attempting to navigate through the trash can maze fell and got a bloody nose.”

and taped them to several the offending cans.  I had no hope that such a notice would have the least effect especially since rain was predicted that afternoon and my signs would probably disintegrate if it was hard enough. 

But, surprise of surprises, since the incident they have all been neatly arranged following Monday’s pick-up.  Don’t know if it’s the DPW guys who are doing this or the neighbors.  But either way I’m impressed.  One small improvement for our neighborhood; one giant leap for the betterment of mankind.  Or something like that. 

Post Incident Neatness


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