Taking Out the Trash

Posted on February 10th, 2012 by Viveca in New York Stories

One day my shower curtain rod buckled. It just did; I don’t think the shower curtain suddenly got heavier or anything, but the rod is only aluminum, and it folded, and I had to get a new one. Which I did. That’s not a story, even for me.

Anyway, I installed the new one and went to throw the old one away. I live on the sixth floor, and normally we dump trash down a chute to the basement. I didn’t think it would be such a hot idea to drop a six-foot metal rod down the chute, so I got on the elevator with it to take it down and place it in the trash. I was on my way out to run some errands anyway.

Well, I spaced. Someone else pushed the button for the lobby, and when everyone else got off the elevator I did too—instead of going to the basement I mean. No big deal. I figured I’d just drop the rod in the first trashcan I saw on the street. You aren’t supposed to throw household trash in them, but it was just one rod.

There was a trashcan at the first corner I came to. But there was also a man wearing a hospital johnny. Yup, the kind with the laces in the back and nothing under it. He was standing in the street shouting at passersby. When he saw me, he stopped dead in his tracks and shouted, “damn baby, just because I think you’re beautiful, please don’t kick my ass with that pipe!” I decided not to arm the crazy man by leaving the curtain rod in his trashcan, so I kept it and kept walking.

On the next corner another homeless man was leaning over the trashcan. At first I thought he was picking through the trash for something to eat, and I never like to toss garbage into people’s dinners. As I got closer, however, I saw that he was vomiting into the trashcan—carefully, so as not to get the street dirty. After vomiting for a while, he would stand up and take a few spoonfuls from a pint container of premium ice cream. Then he would vomit again. Ice cream might be soothing while you’re yakking, but I didn’t want to have to cross his puke stream to throw out the rod.

This story doesn’t have an ending, or rather I don’t remember what happened. Eventually I must have found someplace I could leave the rod with a clean conscience because I know I don’t still have it. But it was just one of those days where everything in New York was a little stranger than I walked out expecting it to be.

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