Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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In Which Monica Is Shamed (In A Most Heinous Fashion) Into Doing Her Part To Save The Planet

I don't recycle. Really I just can't be bothered. I have more pressing issues than the environment. Save your lectures. Yup, I let the water run when I brush my teeth too. I live on the edge, man. You will be happy to note, however, that I ALWAYS scrape my plate clean for the starving children in China or Somalia or wherever Angelina Jolie last visited. If it's a really good meal I've been known to lick the plate... if The Surge isn't looking, that is. Although it's doubtful the licking maneuver would surprise him.. Yesterday evening I had just finished scooping up the last of the cheese sauce from a bowl with my index finger and looked up to find him staring at the woman he married, a look of horror affixed to his mug. But I digress.

Recycling. It's all the rage amongst you do-gooders. Happily sorting plastics, papers and aluminums, god love you... It's not because I don't care about the environment.. it's just that recycling in Utah was nearly impossible whilst living in my particular condominium. There was only the main dumpster, you see - so you were on your own if you wanted to sort recyclables.. Well you could sort all you wanted, it was getting them to the proper recycling location that was the hard part.

Eventually, city officials proffered giant blue garbage cans for homeowners.. but that left all us condo dwellers out in the cold... which was fine by me - I figured the global warming I was gallantly escorting into fruition would keep me toasty. Alas, I never got into the habit of recycling.. Until today. And now I will never leave a stray bit of plastic or aluminum languishing amongst my empty Doritos bags. Ever. Did I mention EVER?

The Surge is Texas bound as I type, so I took advantage of the empty apartment and used the morning to clean. Y'know - the kind of cleaning he never does.. Tub and toilet scrubbin', refrigerator blitz (dead produce, the humanity!) floor mopping and so forth.

At the end of my whirling dervish of spotlessness I emptied all the trash cans in the house.. This included the bathroom bin and the kitchen garbage can. Then I left the full-to-bulging bags by the front door where I could grab them for deposit in my apartment trash cans on my way to work.

I ran a comb through my snarls, brushed my choppers and slapped a bit 'o' paint on my deathly winter pallor, smooched Maxer g'bye and left for work. As I exited my apartment building I noticed the elderly Polish woman who lives upstairs messing about with the five garbage cans that call the front of my apartment home.

Now there is nothing unusual in this. Said Polish woman messes about with the trash cans once a week. I've noticed it coincides with the arrival of the garbage collectors and figured her cause legitimate as opposed to the legions of crazy elderly women who can regularly be seen going through the garbage in search of a bite to eat. Well, hunger is as legitimate a cause as any - but you know what I mean.

The woman had just finished lugging the trash from our apartment building to the curb. Several heavy duty black trash bags lined the street awaiting pick up. As I felt silly depositing my refuse in the newly emptied garbage cans, I asked if I should put my flimsy, white trash bags next to the others at the curb.

In response, she waddled over to me and yanked the bags from my grip. It wasn't an unkind gesture, more of a grandmotherly-let-me-do-that-for-you-because-I've-been-doing-it-for-years-and-you'll-just-fuck-it up gesticulation. So I handed my bags, stuffed with - among other objectionable items - wet coffee grounds, dirty tampon applicators and yes, wet hair from the drain in my bathroom (I threw up a little in my mouth when I typed the wet hair bit... is there anything worse??)

I stood there uncertainly, not sure if my help was expected or required.. I'd assumed she was maybe going to stuff my two offerings to the Garbage Gods into one of her heavy duty black bags at the curb. But she didn't do that. It was worse, so much worse.

She started by stuffing one of my bags into the other one. Right. Consolidating the trash.. Makes sense. But in the midst of the trash compaction the aged geriatric paused, I could nearly see her nose twitch, and like Max chasing birds, she pounced.

Liver spotted hands clawed apart the plastic bag and talon fingers began an achaeological dig through my trash. Holy Christ! What IS she doing!!! I was truly at a loss. The first thing to spill from the bag was the clump of wet hair from the shower drain. She brushed it aside like so much lint and continued to rummage. Coffee grounds gathered beneath ragged fingernails and still she pressed on.. Used tampon applicators clattered to the sidewalk.

I stood, horrified as the remnants from the past view days of living plopped obscenely onto the sidewalk. In addition to the tampons and wet hair horror, the trash bag (with the assistance of it's Polish midwife) gave birth to moldy banana peels and rotten veggies.

My antediluvian neighbor continued to scrap her way through Bielanko life until she located the abomination. The Soddom and Gomora for environmentalists the world over: A plastic two-liter of Diet Coke.
"Idiotka! Skurwysyn!" she muttered under her breath.
"Can I help you with something there?" I asked helplessly.

The senior spinster ignored me and tossed the empty container behind her and continued pilfering my trash. My offer to help was instantly forgotten the moment I eyeballed a used condom loitering at the bottom of the bag. Mother of god. I will puke right here if she digs through that.

Bony hands rampaged through tissues and coffee filters (both used!) until she located the second cause of her seemingly immense distress. Another Diet Coke container. This one half full.
"Pierdolony Fagas!" she cast a disparaging, milky blue eye my way, twisted off the top of the container and emptied the flat liquid into the gutter.
"Okay then." I said. "Thanks for the help."
"BLUE! BLUE!" She shrieked. Desperately I tried to comprehend. Code blue? Is she having a heart attack? Is this hospital jargon? Annoyed with my dithering, she gathered the offending Diet Coke bottles and shoved them at me, the sinner.
"BLUE!" She nudged me backward while pointing a claw at the garbage cans in front of my apartment.

Understanding razored through my mind. She wanted me to put the bottles in the blue trash can. The one for recycling!

So I did. And you can bet your goddamn life I'll be utilizing ol' "BLUE" in the years to come.. If only to keep my trash - and myself by proxy - from another public raping.

Reader Comments (73)

Whew! I'm not the only girl who licks her plate or bowl after eating something yummy and scrumptious!

When I lived in Delaware, the first time I had 7-11 nacho's and cheese. I would put mounds of the gooey, hot cheese all over my tortilla chips. Go home, eat my creation. MMMMM...then the fun part would be taking my finger to get the cheese and if I didn't get it all, the tongue came into play. My friend Karen always laughed at me for doing this.

I would have been horrified though watching the elderly Polish woman rummaging through my trash. EWWWWWWW! I hate to rummage through my own trash. Sometimes that happens especially when you mistakely throw something away. I hate that! When you just throw something away by mistake then realize it. You think it should be on top. You just thew it away right? never happens that way. Always seems to sift or fall to the bottom. Makes me so ill.

Yes I think you will be remembering blue as well. While I do enjoy living in the city very much, sometimes living in suburbia ain't so bad.
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
Was that actual Polish-speak for "polluter of the universe?"

What's next? The time you left one of Max's gargantuan intestinal droppings in front of a deli?

As always, you say what no person has the guts to admit.

March 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
Very effective writing!
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Armstrong
what can I say, not all Polish people are like that...OMG unless it comes with age

let me know me if there is a need for a verbal warning in a local language of neighbour trash savers
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter(polish)crazygoing
No worries.. she may have been gruff, but her dedication to recycling is certainly admirable. More importantly, did I get the Polish cursing correct?
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
very impressive actually :)
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter(polish)crazygoing
Another gem! I'll admit as well, I can't be arsed to recycle either unless I'm at work and the proper trash receptacles are already set up.
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
You created such a mental picture (albeit not a pretty one) with this story. I can't remember which one, but some comedian used to do a stand-up routine about wet hair from the drain. Something to the effect of "if a burglar ever breaks in I'm going to put a clump of wet drain hair on a spoon and wave it at him, it will be more effective than a gun in scaring him off!"

Thanks for another laugh.
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloopy
How mortifying. Is the woman the landlord, by chance? Maybe she's not so much dedicated to recycling but more concerned that she'll get into trouble for not separating the trash from recycling. When I lived in NYC, I'm pretty sure that recycling was required by law. She probably gets fined or something. Just a theory.
March 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramanda b
Canadians are recycling freaks but let me tell you something - there isn't a single person that I have ever met that would touch a filled condom, bloody applicators and countless other unspeakables in order to 'SAVE' a couple of cans! Forget throwing up in my mouth 'a little' - I think I would have added to what she was wadding through right there at the curb.

Crazygoing...I won't judge your people (ha ha).

Monica, your words brought me to that sidewalk - well done - the visuals you evoke...well now I am just repeating myself.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
The woman is not the landlord, but has lived here since before I was born.. Methinks the landlord probably cuts her some slack on the rent in exchange for trash services. Shit.. I'll dig through tampon applicators for a cut in rent.. Cost of living in NYC will blow ya mind!
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
glad to hear you are now a recycler! having been raised in san francisco... i was horrified by your opening paragraph! more pressing issues than the environment?! sounds like something our president would say (i'm sure he has)... yikes...
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlc
I stopped recycling when my ex started buying recycled toilet paper.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStFarmer
You know I'll be honest - I've never recycled and never felt guilt over it. And I hate Bush as much as the next person. Loved this one Monica! I love your entire blog!
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJill
I'll start recycling when the giant corporate polluters start doing their share to clean up the environment. They pollute more in a minute than I will in a lifetime of diet coke cans and beer bottles tossed in the garbage.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
If I were that nice old lady I would have recycled you...


March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSicksadworld
LOL I am glad I am not the only one who has to pull that blob of hair out of my drain!! I try my hardest to not let my hair fall down the drain, twisting it up as I wring out my hair! But to no avail! I also have noticed since I dyed my hair dark, not sure what possessed that, that I see dark hair EVERYWHERE! GROSS!
I try to recyle my beer bottles! But have you noticed all the restrictions for recycling? Well on top of our recycle containers lid it tells you to wash things out, don't leave lids on bottles, blah blah, those recyclers are PICKY BITCHES!!!
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
I might puke now.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
Heather B said: "I might puke now."

Just keep it in your mouth and swallow and you'll be fine.. Wait! That's what The Surge said two nights ago! Hey-OHHH!
March 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
"Just keep it in your mouth and swallow and you'll be fine.. Wait! That's what The Surge said two nights ago! Hey-OHHH!"

Ahhhh.....the visual!
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
I don't care if you're a "spitter"... just don't make me sleep on the wet spot.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStFarmer

Jesus! Is there no shameful, socially non-redeeming, thing that you've not done or thought about? <smirk>

Keep up the good work!

My dogs poop and pee just to stir up the neighborhood dogs. It's their little fuck you to all the ones' who owners' don't spoil them like I do.

I walk around with plastic bags hanging out of all of my pockets like some kind of freakish environmentalist.

All the bags in the world won't help you when things get "a little runny." That's the ultimate fake-scoop scenario. Others include: the snow-kick cover-up, the diarrhea "spread", the rarely used "ignore and pretend it didn't happen," the dog scold ("it's not my fault! I tried to tell him not to!"), the "no flashlight, I'm blind" maneuver, and the great, "if a dog poops in any area adjacent to a property line but not directly in an owned or rented lot, or zoned area, i.e. a place with leaves,...LEAVE IT.

March 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
STFarmer...oh my!

If you shoot it, you clean it up. Which means you get the wet spot.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
Joe! I nearly peed my pants. That is the funniest. I refuse to type LOL because I'm just not that kind of girl. But I am laughing my ass off!
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
Not recycling is not funny.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGreenboy
Here we go...
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloopy
Awwww.... Greenboy you adorable lil' fella.. I bet you're the kind of do-gooder that flaps your hand in front of your face when somebody lights up a smoke within a hundred yards of you... That's sweet.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
No, I just think your blase attitude towards our environment isn't very funny.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGreenboy
Did you not hug your tree this morning?
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
I hugged a tree this morning. Well...I actually humped it...cause, know...
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSicksadworld's all I got...
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSicksadworld
Fiabug: "Did you not hug your tree this morning?"

LOL, oh that's a great line!

My 2 cents on recycling: I've just recently noticed that because I grew up with my parents faithfully using the available curbside recycling, I now forget that recycling is actually an option. I've lived in an apt. for a number of years now, and I still schlep my little blue bin all the way down to the dumpster area. It wasn't until my friends started commenting on how admirable it was that I recycled that I remembered...hey, this really isn't required of me. Oh well, it's already ingrained...
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterktphotog
Well certainly more than I have Sick. It's good to know your getting some action even if it's from some rough bark. It's the longest trunk that you have ever humped, well maybe? :)
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
Monica.....I think your attitude toward the enviroment is funny..... I may go piss on a tree for us all...
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
oh monica, thanks for reaffirming why I have a little bit of a crush.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
My reasons for anal retentive recycling practices are purely selfish: I do NOT want to have to EVER drive a hybrid car! Bah!
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmy K
I think jls best sums it up for me.. "I'll start recycling when the giant corporate polluters start doing their share to clean up the environment. They pollute more in a minute than I will in a lifetime of diet coke cans and beer bottles tossed in the garbage."

I know "it takes a village" and "every little bit helps" and all those other fantabulous do-gooder mantras.. but man - will recycling my Diet Coke bottles REALLY help or do recyclers just like to feel good about themselves? I don't know the answers..

Plus, I'm just lazy so, although I adore your altruistic sentiments - suck it Greenboy - I got bigger fish to fry. Mmm fish. I'm hungry.
March 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
damn girl
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
wow, i don't understand the hostile anti-recycling thing at all... the only reason, i believe, that someone would not recycle is because of lack of education on the issue. i don't want to sound preachy- but yes it does matter and does make a difference- and i think if you knew how much it did you wouldn't consider it such an imposition on your life. it's such an typical American attitude to refuse to do something unless it's ridiculously convenient for us. which recycling pretty much is! also- you live in NY now and it's against the law to not recycle, so get with the program!
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlc
Not to sound preachy though, right?
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
HA HA beat me to it.

Personally, I am educated on recycling. Yet I still don't do it. I'm already going to hell anyways. I'm lucky to put my garbage cans to the road on trash day, which I will be doing here shortly since tomorrow is trash day.

People are human! Thank god or whoever you believe in for that. We make poor judgements, mistakes and many other things all the time.

So Monica wasn't doing her earthly duty by recycling. I think she did say she would start now. Sometimes things happen to convince someone to do it. Should she be doing just because of this incident? Well who's to say. I'm not here to judge her. Nor am I here to say she's a terrible person for not recycling.

I think I'll go hug or maybe hump a tree. Sick do you suggest a certain kind of tree to be better? ;)

March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
This blog seems to have somewhat of a large following and while I think a lot of what Monica writes is funny, I think it's socially irresponsible for her to advocate being lazy and scoffing at those of us who choose to recycle.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGreenboy
That tree needs your love right now, Greenboy.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
I think that the reason for this whole thing is so people can be socially irresponsible.....because most peole are..... and Monica sure as shit does not have to be socially responsible....

but if you recycle that's great....I don't....I'm not lazy.....I just don't have room in my apartment to do it.....

March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
ok, i guess i was a little preachy...
it's hard not to when you write about something you think is really important...
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlc
WOW! Who knew this journal was going to start a shit storm of opinions? All of the issues in the world and people are arguing about cans of diet coke. I respect everyone will have an opinion, it is natural and a fabulous part of being alive....lets just lay off the preachy. No one wants to be preached to about anything...coke cans or otherwise.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
Ain't nuffin wrong or evil bout being environmentally conscience, brahhs. Killing babies. That's wrong and evil.

March 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersicksadworld
Oh for the love of God, it's funny. I recycle compusively, I buy organic and use environmentally friendly no VOC paint in my house, and I have no sense of humor, truly, and i find it funny. I am really hoping Greenboy is joking. You're joking, right? Because that self-important environazi thing is so 1991.

Imagine the humiltation of your trash on the sidewalk! And it's funnier when it doesn't happen to you, isn't it? To paraphase Mel Brooks, when it happens to me it's tragedy, when it happens to you it's comedy.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
I think all the talk is fantastic, I only wish we were all discussing this, slightly drunk, over dinner...

Oh - and ain't nuthin' any of youse can throw at me that will be worse than my neigbhor pawing through my tampons and wet hair (dammit, there I went and threw up a bit in my mouth again)
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

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