I suppose I qualify as a recidivist. I have been cited once again for committing an antisocial act in the District of Columbia. This time a pink slip was delivered at my doorstep that said, "Warning: Notice of Violation. Date: 01/11/88. Time: 11:10 a.m. Violation Code and Title: R13021 DCMR 708.11." My crime? "Improper solid waste containers at point of collection; open boxes able to cause litter."
In other words, I am a garbage scofflaw.
I can accept my place among the ranks of those other scofflaws, the jaywalkers and the double-parkers. To enter the ranks of the munici-pal slobs, however, is harder. I amnot a litterbug. But evidently I have some things to learn about garbage disposal, because this is my second offense.
The first was an unofficial reprimand some years ago, but its effect was more humiliating than the recent public warning. It was from a neighbor who scolded me in writing for putting my trash in the wrong can. I had been under the misapprehension that all cans residing in the alley-way were alike, and that each was emptied once a week by the city's sanitation workers. Wrong, this neighbor, who didn't know me but evidently knew my garbage, instructed in the strictest of tones. He had opted for private collection and did not wish to pay for the collection of trash belonging to anybody else. Henceforth I was to dispose of debris in a receptacle whose contents would be picked up by the Department of Public Works.
I obeyed the rules after that -- not simply because I was chastened but also because I was determined not to provide some other stranger with an excuse for rifling through my trash. The complainant, after all, had determined from a bag or two of refuse not only the name and address of the perpetrator -- me -- but also something about what I eat, what I read and whether or not I pay my bills on time.
So I thought I had learned my lesson about solid waste, Supercans and their relationship to the community -- until that pink slip arrived this month. This time my crime was not where I dumped the stuff, but how I dumped it.
It is necessary at this point to explain that a Supercan does not accommodate supertrash, which is what I had on my hands at the time. Having stuffed the Supercan itself full of garbage bags, I seized upon the general Supercan environment for the remaining boxes, dozens of them, which I stacked around the can.
I suppose, now that I think about it, the scene did bear some resemblance to a cargo containment area. So I can't actually blame the Public Space Maintenance Administration, as the DPW division in charge of my case calls itself, for nailing me. I blame, instead, three other things:
First, my recent marriage, an occasion to have and to hold boxes.
Second, the petrochemical industry, which manufactures the white, Styrofoam-like stuffing often found inside boxes bearing gifts.
And third, an unholy alliance of cats and dogs, which ransacked the Supercan environment, causing the white, Styrofoam-like stuffing to rain down upon the neighborhood.
I concede that by the time the sanitation truck arrived, the garbage display was not pretty. But I did not know it was against the law.
I have now been reeducated. With the pink citation came a brochure replete with photographs describing the do's and don'ts of trash dis-posal. "These are some of the most common residential sanitation violations," it said, proceeding to enumerate them: uncovered solid waste containers, $25 fine; improper solid waste containers at the point of collection, $25 fine; overgrowth of shrubs, trees and bushes onto the public space, $25 fine; improper use of litter receptacles, $25 fine; and so forth.
I got off easy this time; it was only a warning, and as long as I take corrective action, the DPW tells me, I don't have to pay the fine. I have purchased plenty of garbage bags, with extra ties, and I intend topractice proper solid waste dis-posal techniques in the future. (Never mind that it doesn't make much sense to stuff biodegradable cardboard boxes into nonbiodegradable plastic bags.)
I must say that as bad as my transgression was, it was not as bad as it might have been. I was not, after all, cited for another common violation, 21DCMR 700.3: rat harborage. -- Kathryn Stearns