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Small Talk: Carried away with the cleanup

Where does the Lone Ranger take his trash?  (to the tune of “William Tell’s Overture”) To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump!

That joke, while still one of my favorites, rarely gets a laugh from anyone under 30 these days. Today it requires the listener not only to know who the Lone Ranger was but also to be familiar with those famous bars of the Lone Ranger’s theme and the “William Tell Overture.”

Nevertheless, I tell that joke to my unappreciative family every time I have to haul something over to the trash collection center in Carlsbad. My husband always laughs appreciatively. He laughs because it is me and not him who is schlepping away the latest broken-down appliance.

I realized this week that I am way, way more familiar with that temporary trash stop than a genteel matron of my standing should be.  OK, maybe genteel is a little strong, but I have my standards. I don’t know where they are right this minute, but I’m sure those standards are around here somewhere, buried under the junk I need to get rid of.

In truth, I know why these tasks fall to me, rather than to the traditional choice of the man of this house. I grew up unaware that I was watching my mom wrestle furniture around, fill trash cans with weeds and carry in firewood. My father is an absolute gentleman who would do all this and more for her whenever he was home, but the Air Force kept him at high altitudes on a regular basis, leaving such tasks to her. So she just did them.

She never mentioned that she did them, in deference to the social expectations of the time.  She certainly never bragged about doing them. She just took care of business, and I was unintentionally programmed to follow suit.  I didn’t realize I had absorbed this tiresome little trait until it was far too late to change.

Given a crystal ball, I’m sure I would have opted to work much harder at being a spoiled-yet-patient princess. Then I would have found and married some man who was dying to wait on me hand and foot. Oh, they’re out there. I was just too busy loading up the back of the truck to notice them.

Which brings us to now, as I dragged the shredded mattress out of the garage.  It had stood in there for weeks after the dog dug a hole in it, somewhat hidden by leftover lumber, beekeeping equipment and dusty boxes of seldom-used sporting goods. I didn’t even notice it anymore, it until we had to move it to get to something else.

Once I got the bed in the van, it looked lonely. I decided that I needed to make worthwhile the 30-minute wait in line and the $35 fee for not leaving my trash by the side of the road. When my family wasn’t looking, I began scouring the house and garage for things that needed to join the pile. I won’t admit to finding anything, but somehow I filled the space up nicely with items that will never be missed.

For the environmentalists out there, believe that I do have pangs of conscience at contributing with such regularity to our throwaway society – I can only plead the bed was 30 years old, and recycled, as it had been my folks, and then mine. I hope that gets me off the hook.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who feels absolved by driving a 2007 Prius.