On Making Trash

Oscar the Grouch, a wise muppet indeed.

You know how sometimes actions have unintended byproducts or side effects whereas other times actions have no purpose but to make the byproducts or side effects? People make trash, that is a fact of life. It’s essentially unavoidable in the world we live in, a byproduct of our lifestyle and economy.

But where all people make trash, some people make trash. Do you know the distinction I’m trying to make? Those people that go out of their way and put effort into making literal trash that is meant to be thrown away, whose actions have no purpose other than to degrade, who contribute no value to those around them. I think we all have those people in our life, if you are lucky maybe only on the peripheries.

Indulge me, if you will, as I try to explain with a slightly tangential example.

In my office if you happen to be one of the few suckers who stay after everyone else has left, you may notice some things as you wander the dark, quiet halls after hours when you finally can go home for the night. Those dark, quiet halls aren’t necessarily empty, oftentimes you will encounter piles of oversize recyclables left out for the cleaning people to dispose of. It’s a pretty standard practice in our office for items that may not fit in the bins, large rolls from our 36” plotter paper, empty cardboard boxes from computer monitors or other equipment, miscellaneous packaging from office supplies or deliveries. Leaving it in the hallway is a well-known, unsaid shorthand for “please take this out to the dumpsters, as I am too lazy to do so myself.” Setting that cop out aside, this is normal behavior, and acceptable in an office setting, at least in ours. I will probably have a whole separate dissertation about janitors/cleaning staff and other service industry peeps who get treated like the trash we leave for them take out, but one thing at a time.

What really wrecks my rocket is when, as you wander the darkened halls littered with the day’s detritus, you notice that some people go above and beyond this trash behavior, leaving signs on the trash that say, “Trash” (Have I said the word ‘trash’ enough yet?). I’d like you to take a minute to let that sink in….someone took time out of their day and used office resources to create a handwritten sign specifically to be thrown away with said trash. It’s even better (read: worse) when it’s a printed sign. A printed Trash sign to tape onto a pile of trash that, generally speaking in an office setting, is a surface on which one can write.

If you are the type of person to give people the benefit of the doubt, which I am not, you could argue that maybe those people save the signs to reuse, but really? Do they? I don’t think so. To me, the fact that they went out of their way to generate more trash tells me that they have no intention of trying to reduce, reuse, or recycle.

Am I the only one bothered by this? There are far greater problems to worry about, sure, but these trash people go out of their way to make more problems. I guarantee they are the same people who go out of their way to make fun of you for the pettiest reasons rather than making small talk or, better yet, no talk, who give you trite and/or sarcastic clichés when you absolutely don’t need them, and who purposely make things more difficult just to complain about them. Not only do they not add value to their interactions with others, they go out of their way to make those around them feel worse about themselves. These are trash people and you don’t need them in your life. I don’t, anyway. We may be trash as well in our own unique ways, but we can do great things. They, on the other hand, are the garbage cannots. This bothers me, even when I know that I shouldn’t let it.

If you think of a way to get rid of them, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be printing off a few 8.5×11 signs of my own…

Quietly Seething

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