Lindsay Woods: You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle 'the refuse collection'

Maya Angelou has stated that, “…you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things; a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights”.

What should have been included amongst those three is ‘the refuse collection’.

To know my husband is to know his love for dealing with the bin. In particular, the recycling one. He takes extreme pleasure in the condensing of cardboard and takes exception to anyone depositing any article in the bin if the appropriate foundations have not been laid.

“Where are you going with that?”

“The bin?”

“You’ll have to wait until I line it.”

“With what? Gold leaf and the tears of angels?”

You see, you can’t just place recycling material in the bin in our house. No. There is a process which begins in the bowels of the utility room. There is a designated area for the appropriate condensing of all relevant materials. He is fastidious in his efforts to align us all to his way of thinking. It stands to reason that we are, of course, in utter agreement in pulling our weight in relation to that sage mantra of ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’; however, can I honestly say I have compressed every empty milk carton? No.

The anxiety levels with the bins reached unknown peaks after we had our children. If there was any thought that we were guilty of purchasing products with excess packaging before, then we were in for a very rude awakening. The V-Tech logo still sends shivers down my husband’s spine when he sees it. Hearing the sing-song voice of the lady who prattled on in the guise of a teapot/handbag/phone has a similar effect upon my person. We now entered the realm of lurid coloured boxes housing their equally lurid contents restrained by dozens upon dozens of my husband’s new nemesis: cable ties.

“Why do they need to use so many? Can they not use paper ones?”

He developed strategies and coping mechanisms that would put the professionals to shame. He first deployed this new set of tactics around the time of our son’s first birthday. The enquiries began innocently at first: general ones such as to the guest list and time of the party. I advised that I thought it best to let our child open his gifts once everyone had left, as it might be a bit overwhelming:

“Let him open them while everyone is here; that’s what a party is about. Plus, people will want to see him open his presents.”

However, no sooner had the candles been blown out on the cake, I noticed him casting a sly, yet furtive, glance in the direction of the clock. “Right!” as he clapped his hands together, “Let’s open the presents!”

The child was deposited in the centre of the floor with the gifts and the gift givers surrounding him. My husband sat next to him, armed with a scissors and a screwdriver.

The first present was placed in front of our now one-year-old, who did what a one-year-old does when presented with a box rivalling their own height and weight, covered in vibrantly hued wrapping… he stared at it, blankly. Then stared at us, blankly.

“Go on... open it. There’s a good boy.”

More blank staring from the baby. More twitchy eye movements from the husband which led to him declaring: “I’ll help so… oh look, it’s the V-Tech counting teddy yoke...” as he rips it from the packaging to hand to our son. Who stares at it, blankly. This pattern was repeated for each gift bestowed upon our offspring. Wrapping removed, item freed from the confines of its packaging before it was placed directly in front of the baby. After the opening of the second gift, a shift in the pattern began to emerge. Once the item had been placed in the child’s line of vision, my husband would scoop up the cardboard, paper and cable ties and disappear into the utility room before returning and casting yet another sneaky glance in the direction of the clock.

5pm arrived. Guests began to ready themselves to leave and we walked to the front door offering thanks and goodbyes.

I then felt my husband brush past me holding a bin liner containing the aforementioned packaging as he called out: “Oh mum, would you mind putting this in your bin? Our recycling one won’t be collected for another week and it’s pretty full as is...”

Aida Austin is away


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