The Prodigal Recycle Bin

As Hedda mentioned, we had a big party on Saturday night. There was a lot of carnage at this party, including a lit candle getting knocked off its perch, spewing hot wax all over our front window. This post is about neither the party nor the candle, though.

Yesterday, we spent a good portion of the day cleaning up the flat. Chris and I cleaned the counters, did the dishes, and schlepped the garbage and recycling out back to the receptacles behind the building. I was sitting in the open front window scraping wax from the sill and glass when I heard quite a commotion coming from down the alley. It was the unmistakable sound of aluminum cans banging against one another. I brushed it off, intent on my wax scrapings, thinking it was just a homeless person digging through our garbage or one of the 14th Street businesses with whom we share an alley dumping their trash. When I went to take out another bag of trash, however, I realized the truth.

The contents of the recycle bin were strewn across the alley, and our building’s big blue recycle bin was missing. Gone. Vanished. Poof! Lacking either sentience or auto-locomotion, it seemed unlikely to have dumped itself all over the alley, let alone wandered off. No - it had been stolen. Who on earth would steal a recycling bin?

So I called 311. As usual, I didn’t write down the operator’s number, but I explained that I wanted to report a stolen recycle bin. After a few moments of confusion, she informed me that the “phone unit that takes reports is down,” and that I would have to call back every hour on the hour until it was up, at which time I could file a report. My alternative was to trek down to the MPD station and file a report by hand. Fat chance of that over a recycle bin!

Intent on some sleuthing, I went to the apartment building next door (where Zahriya and her fiance live) because I knew they had a security camera pointed pretty much directly at our dumpster. The security officer, who was very nice, explained that that camera was not working, so she could not help. Finally, I resolved to just get it over with and clean up the mess - but not before putting on some thick rubber gloves.

After that decidedly unpleasant business was complete, I was walking back up the alley when I saw Officer Caron pull up in her squad car. Our up-up-upstairs neighbor Greg came out to meet her, too, since he had called 911 to report it stolen. Apparently, he had thrown away an old TV and stereo that afternoon, and they were now missing along with the bin. The theory was that some person had dumped the bin as a means of transporting the garbage electronics. We described the recycle bin to Officer Caron, including some unique markings on it, and she promised to keep an eye out for it. In truth, I was planning to call our garbage collectors the next day to request a new bin.

This evening, we were having dinner and watching basketball with Chris, Katie, Kasey, and Bill, when we saw a police car turn down the alley. Heather noticed that the trunk was open, and made an incredulous comment to that effect. I joked that maybe they had found our recycle bin, and everybody laughed - and then the doorbell rang.

At the door was Officer Caron. She had found our recycle bin! She had found it in front of the 7-Eleven, with the trashed stereo still inside, and had thrown it in her squad car and brought it back to us. Totally freaking sweet! We gave her a hug and offered her some quesadillas, but she had to get back to work. Bill, who is a Virginia State Trooper, was really shocked at how personal and cool both Officer Caron and her actions were, and Hedda and I spent the next ten minutes gushing to him about how great our neighborhood cops are.

So the prodigal recycling bin has returned. I think we may be forced to hold a grand feast in its honor. There’s never a dull moment in the city.

(For you language nazis out there who read my site: Sure, I know that it really didn’t go on some profligate binge - spending all its inheritance in a single 24-hour marathon. It’s a recycle bin - how could it do that? I just like the title because it evokes the similarly named parable, but it was unfortunately not named The Son Who Left and Came Back.)