New Orleans can be a lawless and ad hoc sort of place, known (among other things) for brazen drug dealers, dangerous pot holes, stop signs that aren't observed, multiple car pile-ups and flagrantly ignored building regulations - and all this just in our block. (Next door, the owner of the duplex is currently installing four tiny apartments in the former basement.)
But the city has just introduced what it calls a uniformed, standardized garbage collection process, courtesy of Richards Disposal. I presume they mean "uniform", though perhaps the collectors' costumes are part of our New Look New Orleans. Anyway, we had to register to get the new 96-gallon wheelie trash cans, which T. Middy did with his usual efficiency. We got two for our duplex; next door's duplex got two as well. The house on the other side of our building, which faces a different street, got just one, even though it has two apartments. Probably this is because one of the apartments is an illegal dwelling without its own legit street address.
So last week we put out our trash on Thursday night - just one can for the two apartments, because we'd had a pick-up on Tuesday morning. The trash gets picked up at four A.M. - we know this because there are "uniformed, standardized" truck sounds and shouting twice a week around that time. On Friday morning, around 7:30, T. Middy went out to retrieve the trash can - but it was gone.
If you lose one of the new wheelie bins, you have to GET A POLICE REPORT. Yes, we're expected to go to the police, file a stolen property claim, and present that to the City. Then, the Richards web site explains, we have "to locate the bar coded cart by use of a tracking system. If the cart is not located within seven (7) days, the household or small business will be responsible for the cart replacement fee."
Nothing on the web site lists this "cart replacement fee" but whatever it is, we didn't want to pay it. And somehow, we couldn't imagine the NOPD taking the search for our stolen trash can very seriously, because they are busy identifying shooting victims, busting crack cocaine rings, and running a speed trap near the PJs on Freret Street.
So we took the law into our own hands. That night, T.Middy checked all the jumbo wheelie cans in the vicinity, writing down their bar codes. When the Richards office opened again on Monday morning, he called to find out our assigned bar codes and compare them with his notes. Of course, the Richards representative made him spell out our street name half a dozen times, and then, bored with the effort, told him that Richards did not cover our neighborhood. But he persevered, and it paid off: we got a match!
Our trash can had been purloined by our neighbor on the corner - the one who only has one bin for his two-apartment house. Rather than pay for a second bin, he got up early and took ours. I guess he decided we were only using one and therefore only needed one - or maybe that we could afford to pay for a second bin and he didn't want to.
I dragged the wheelie bin back from his house to ours, and then, during a lull in the rain, painted our address in large white letters on both trash cans. It looks rather more artistic than intended - ie kind of a mess - but at least it will deter thieves. The thief in question, by the way, has not come around with a shotgun to demand return of said bin. Last night we wheeled both trash cans out - one still full of his rubbish - and this morning they were outside our house. The thieving neighbor had put out the old-style regular trash can, but these won't be acceptable for much longer. Buy another bin, thief! And don't mess with the bar-code trackers of Uptown. All that time I spent reading and re-reading Donna Parker: Mystery at Arawak has really paid off.
In other crime-in-our-street news, our young friend Rebecca came over on Wednesday afternoon so I could show her how to make a pavlova. I was late walking back from campus, so she had to wait on our porch for ten minutes. The usual parade of school buses thundered along our pocked, narrow street, and one sideswiped a parked car belonging to a teacher - the guy was in the schoolyard at the time coaching the football team. His car had a huge dent in its door. The school bus didn't even stop. When will the madness end?