We live at Village Circle, which is a square, in Waco, Texas—there are 25 units in the “circle.” One of the most sophisticated actions by all residents is putting the garbage containers out for collection each Friday and collecting them as soon as possible after the garbage trucks come.

There are actually two containers, a blue one and a rather moldy brown-green one, the former for recyclables and the latter for regular garbage. Regular garbage can be almost anything, including dead squirrels or cats, rotting fish and vegetables, old flower pots and smelly containers, but not hazardous materials.

Waco residents can take hazardous materials, like oil, paint, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, bombs and computer parts to try and dispose of them at the recycling station off Cobbs Rd. They won’t take a lot of stuff so we also have to wait six months for the City to issue a notice of collection at their monster recycling station off Factory Road. In fact, I found that the Cobbs station won’t even take florescent tubes, but they did refer me to a nearby place that would accept them for 48 cents a tube. I decided to wait for the city announcement, but you can see that getting rid of harmful materials is not simple here in Waco.

I walk around our “circle” often and I note that only about 60% of the residents recycle—they must throw everything into the brown containers. Often the containers are full (probably about 10% of them, although I haven’t carefully calculated this) and junk is overflowing from them or has been placed on the street near the container. Rake handles, mops, springs, handlebars, wires and other household implements often protrude from the containers. To be safe, I always walk on the other side of the street when I see a buldging garbage container.

Two different garbage trucks come to collect the refuse: a blue one for the recyclables and a dirty white one for the all-sort-of-stuff brown ones. The blue trucks have a hoisting device at the back and require the assistance of a loader to hook and raise the container. The dirty white trucks are more varied: they have a large metal container at the front of the truck and a hoisting device at the side. It is all automatic, controlled by the driver, who uses levers to extend a claw-like appendage, grasp the container, lift it, then pour the contents into the large front container. Sometimes the stuff is sticky and smelly so the driver will shake the container like a rag doll until everything is dislodged.

When the front container is full, the driver, using more levers and language, hoists the bowl-shaped container up over the cab and dumps it into the large belly of the truck. Sometimes contents fly out and on to the street. There is a “law” that everything in the garbage container must be “bagged” but some of my neighbors ignore bagging their stuff and it is left to the second person in command to scramble about and pick up the leftovers. Being new, I once forgot to bag our garbage and spent 20 minutes retrieving it from around the ‘hood. It was a windy day and the winds kept shifting and the smell was bad regardless of the angle from which I retrieved our garbage. Since that day, I have bagged everything, right down to the little turds from our family’s dog—when we look after him.

Now that is all background to help you understand how important the garbage collection day is in our circle-square. I have always wondered what would happen if the garbage collector didn’t come. I wondered because I have noted that within 3.5 minutes after a collection—and I have timed this carefully—all empty garbage cans are back within the confines of the owner’s garage. When I am delinquent, say I am 4 minutes late, our garbage container will almost miraculously reappear at our garage door. People here have a gusto for returning garbage containers to their rightful and lawful owners.

Last week we had a disaster of sorts—the garbage collector did not come. Fortunately it was not on the week the blue containers were out, so there was only the brown ones left standing erectly like soldiers in the street.

Usually the truck is here by mid-afternoon at the latest, but Friday went and the brown soldiers were abandoned, left to sleep on the street. We were all dismayed but not yet in shock. The shock came the next day when, again, the soldiers—now slightly drooping—remained alone on the street. Surely the next day, Sunday, a holy day in Waco when everyone sleeps in, the garbos (as they are called in Australia) would come. But they didn’t, and now the whole circle-square was in disarray and doom. Smell was beginning to radiate from certain containers, probably from those who did not recycle, and not many people were now walking their dogs.

What should be done? Call the city council? Inform the governor? No, most of us in the circle-square are old, so we simply took another vitamin and waited. Help would surely come.

And it did! It came on Monday by means of an even dirtier white truck than normal. And the  spillage was minimal—most of the garbage had merged into a solid mass and with a resounding thud went into the bowels of the truck.

The village was unstuck and on track again. Window shutters were open, owners and their dogs resumed their daily walks, although I noticed that the dogs did a lot more sniffing around than usual. And even the owners were careful where they walked.

So thank you City of Waco and the Garbage United Union for heeding our call and allowing the fresh bloom and smell of the flowers to once again permeate our village. But please, please come on time–the excitement is intolerable.

August 17-20
Village Circle, Waco, TX