Recycling day was a little traumatic this week. Normally, I put out a more than respectable spread: a couple of dozen mixed Stella and Becks empties, a few Heinz beans and soup tins and the occasional bottle of Absolut vodka or Chilean wine. Nothing spectacular, but it gives an honest reflection of the kind of people who live in our house. This time around, it was different.
Over the last fortnight, I’ve had people round to watch the football. Said visitors brought their own booze. Obviously, the kind of guest that does not raid the house stock is always welcome, but I have been left with a terrible legacy. My mates, top lads in all other areas, have appalling taste in alcohol. They are crap lager drinkers. As a result, I have a blue plastic box full of Fosters and Carlsberg. While this may not be a disaster, it is a blow to my social standing.
All the time, we’re being told that our society is becoming atomised. Community is a thing of the past and people have little or no interaction with their neighbours. This may be true, but we are able to build a clear picture of the strangers in our street from the clues in their recycling container. I am judged on my empties in the same way that I judge them.
Has she decided that barley wine alone can no longer satisfy her so she’s started to experiment with alcopops?
Take the two houses across the road from me. Both put hefty number of cans at the end of the drive. In times of crisis, I feel confident I would be able to rely on the John Smiths and Ravioli guy whereas the Carling and Whiskas household are going to be worse than useless. Not all selections are as easy to read. Up the road, one receptacle is the height of consistency- 14 days, 14 bottles of Chardonnay. Wannabe yuppie couple or sad old soak? The regular presence of two tins of All Day Breakfast makes me lean towards the latter conclusion.
Hopefully, passers-by will see my low rent offerings this week as a blip. Alternatively, they could wildly speculate about the changes as I often do. The old lady on the corner has become a source of controversy. Since day one of the green revolution, she’s always packed her blue box with nothing but small Gold Label cans. Recently, bottles of purple WKD have started appearing. Has she decided that barley wine alone can no longer satisfy her so she’s started to experiment with alcopops? Is there a young relative who is being shown the boozy ropes by grandma? My most disturbing theory involves a desperate teen; tempted inside with violet voddy and being enticed to suck spaniel ear style tits in exchange for a steady supply.
There’s always the option of keeping your alcohol and tinned crap habits under wraps by putting them in the wheelie bin with the other rubbish, but the evidence suggests that’s easier said than done. Every collection day, there are up to a dozen Select vodka bottles on our street. They are evenly distributed in different boxes along the way. Initially, I thought there must be a deal on at the local shop. Only when a couple turned up in my recycling, did it dawn on me that it was the work of an alki who didn’t want his neighbours to know his secret. A stark little cameo of modern life. Someone is prepared to destroy their liver with a near fatal dose of hard liquor but feels compelled to save the planet. Drinking behind closed doors then skulking round after dark to cover up their clandestine activity.
In a way, it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one who is paranoid about the empties. On the other hand, it confirms that more people are forming an opinion of others based on what they throw away. In the eyes of others- we are what we eat and drink.
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