Saturday, April 29, 2006

How do you throw away a garbage can?

In our continuing zeal to clean away some of the clutter we’ve accumulated in the 20 years we’ve lived here, we’ve found items we didn’t know we had. We’ve also learned a few things.

The latest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s difficult to get rid of rusted-out galvanized metal garbage cans. We have three of them. We’ve kept them in our garage for years and used them to collect aluminum cans for recycling. (See? I’m environmentally aware. It’s totally beside the fact that a local center will pay me 50 cents per pound for those crushed cans!) And we use Rubbermaid plastic containers to haul our trash to the curb on garbage days.

We decided to toss the rusty metal cans, so put them out with the rest of the trash. The garbage men left them behind. I tried putting one of them inside the larger Rubbermaid container, but it was still left behind.

This morning I had the bright idea that if I crushed the metal container like an aluminum can, folded it up and THEN put it inside a plastic trash container, SURELY the garbage men would haul it away. You think?

Well, let’s see. First I have to crush it. Now remember; the bottom is rusty and full of holes, so this thing can’t be very strong, right? (I’m talking about the garbage can here, not me!)

I laid it down, put one foot on the top rim (where the lid goes) and put my weight on it. The rim sagged in a satisfying fashion, but sprang back when I removed my weight. I put my foot BACK on the rim, put a hand on the garage wall for balance, and STOOD on the rim. It sagged further, but did not flatten.

No problem. I then bounced my weight on the rim... and the can promptly rolled away depositing me on my keister on the concrete floor.

What's that? You want to know what I said? Well, I have a theory about that. Just as calories don’t count if no one knows you ate the candy, cursing doesn’t count if no one else hears you. And I’m pretty sure Carol was in the other end of the house. With the vacuum running. So nothing I might have said counts.

I pulled myself to my feet and checked the offending can. The rim was now bent so that the opening was more an ellipse than a circle. Ah, progress!

I realized that I wasn’t heavy enough to do this job without special help or tools, so I pulled out my long-handled 16-pound sledge hammer. Now our garage has a relatively low ceiling, so I moved outside onto the concrete driveway for the next part of the flattening procedure. (See? I TOLD you I’ve learned a few things!)

Like a man at the county fair trying to ring the bell and win his sweetie a kewpie doll, I heaved the mallet up over my head in a wide arc and slammed it down on the rim. No, it DIDN’T bounce off! The hammer mashed the rim flat in three strokes. Now we’re cookin’!

No way that can was going to roll now, not with one end flat. So I jumped up and down on the side to complete the process. But darned if the rusty bottom didn’t refuse to flatten! I pushed the flat top rim up against the outside brick wall of the house and swung the sledge at the top edge of the round bottom rim. Missed completely. Well, not exactly completely. I missed the can completely, but not the brick wall. Carol came out to see if I’d driven the car into the side of the house. She’d heard the noise all the way from the other end of the house. With the vacuum running. I told her everything was OK. The bricks weren’t actually broken, just chipped a bit. If you don’t look closely, you hardly notice.

After a few more swings of the mallet (that connected) I moved the can away from the brick wall and used my weight to finish folding the bottom down flat over one side. Then, by propping the can up against the wall at a 45 degree angle and hitting it with the sledge, I started one final fold so that the can would be flat and folded in thirds. Then, with the bend started, I moved it away from the wall to finish the job with the sledge.

Although the morning wasn’t particularly warm, I was now dripping with sweat. I had a blister on one thumb, and my back was threatening to start aching if I kept swinging that hammer. I tried ONE MORE blow to finish the job. The mallet struck but bounced, thrusting the end of the handle hard into the bony inside of my right knee.

I dropped the mallet and hopped around like a clown on a pogo stick, trying to see through the fog of pain and KNOWING I was surely crippled for life. For your information, I did NOT curse this time. I was thinking a few choice words, but I couldn’t inhale because of the pain, so no words came out.

Now that I have recovered sufficiently to type out this story for you, I can assert that I have one nearly flat metal trash can, plus two more that, with no further exertion on my part, will tomorrow be hauled off to a trash dumpster somewhere near here and tossed in. (Hauled off and “bunged into a skip,” for RobotJam.)

Another lesson learned.


kenju said...

I know whereof you speak. I had a similar situation one time and I ended up carting the cans to the local dump.

Candace said...

Too funny! I laughed out loud when you got the sledge hammer. (Oh, but not, of course, when you hit yourself with it.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, I laughed at all of it. But the mental picture is worth a thousand laughs (at least)!

Good story.

Ana Lee Kennedy said...

The durability of that trashcan is why the garbage men won't tke it. It'll be the year 2457 before it disentegrated. lol.

Anonymous said...

Very funny John. To save yourself from further injury, next time just haul your trash to the dump and spend the entire weekend relaxing.

Anonymous said...

You made me laugh so hard that my dogs started barking!

When I threw away a garbage can, I simply placed it inside the other (larger) garbage can and let go to that great dumpster in the sky. Of course, you have to have a larger can to throw it away in!

Anonymous said...

I hope that by taking the sledge hammer to the garbage can did not cause muscular pain to the upper region of your body and lower part of your back and that your absence so far today has been the result of a good day lounging in the sun.

Have a good week John.

Trish said...


My first thought after reading this story was to wonder if you'd called the place you sold your aluminum cans??

Maybe you could have made some money and without all the pain. I bet they probably have a crusher too. . . grin