One of the reasons I moved to Utah was to escape the overwhelming sadness of coming out of my apartment in Buenos Aires at night to find a young, once lower-middle-class family going through my garbage in search of food.---
When you see children pulling out dirty nappies and empty cans, then holding up half-eaten food to the street light, you feel ashamed—of the bankers and politicians who blithely engineered the currency collapse, and of yourself for having enjoyed the fruits of the economic swindle Argentines benefited from in the late 1990s, only for the roof to cave in shortly after the Millenium. I, after all, could leave the country, having lost my pension and two-thirds of my bank account when the government forcibly devalued the peso. But for many Argentine families, the grim reality was often begging on the street for money for medication or food.
Fast forward six years later, and on Tuesday night I wheel my garbage bins out to the street. I live in a quiet, residential neighborhood in Sandy. In the years I've lived here, I've only had one problem when I was stupid enough to leave my wallet on the front seat of my unlocked car in the driveway overnight—an invitation for the robbery that occurred. Other than that, nothing to report. Until yesterday.
My neighbor had requested to use my bins so they were full of the refuse of his cleaning out his garage after 20 years of piling up boxes. I placed a bag of kitchen garbage on top of his detritus, but could not close the lid.
The next morning, I came out for an early-morning stroll, only to find the lid closed and my garbage bag gone. I stood in the street, scratching my head. Who would take my garbage?
By placing your garbage out on the street, you are, as I understand it, legally relinquishing ownership. If the state or the government wants to look in your garbage, then they arrange to get the entire bin's contents after it has been picked up by the garbage truck. That way you don't know anyone is peering into the entrails of your refuse. If you're a P.I., however, then you snag what you can out of the bins in the early hours and find somewhere convenient to explore the contents.
In the past, I confess that when I have worked on stories about people I consider a menace or, relatedly, find myself pursuing stories involving questionable behavior by law enforcement or local government, at times my paranoia has almost gotten the better of me. When I look down the current list of stories I am working on, however, I cannot see anything that would spark an interest in the personal details of my life.
So, whoever took my garbage, you're more than welcome to it. And thank you for instilling a new dose of paranoia into my existence. I'll be looking over my shoulder a little more carefully from now on.