I come by it honestly. My OCD.
When I was just 16 and coming home from a date, my mother was outside scrubbing the front curb. Embarrassed, I mumbled a quick “thank you” and “bye!” Poor guy. Probably thought I had a terrible time at the baseball game. But then I remembered that he, too, had noticed my mother out there, scrubbing away.
After he pulled out of the driveway and was safely around the corner, I went back outside.
“Mom!” I said, “What are you doing?”
“I’m scrubbing the curb,” she said matter-of-factly.
“I can see that. But why?” I insisted.
“Because it was dirty,” she said, now looking at me like I’m the one from outer space.
“But that’s what the street cleaners are for,” I explained.
“Well, they don’t do a good enough job!” she replied and went back to her scrubbing.
Our home always looked like a Better Homes and Gardens picture spread. Everything always in its place. Impeccably decorated.
And now, I’m carrying on the tradition. With our trash cans.
We have a convenient concrete pad next to our mailbox. It is where we always put our garbage cans to rest until the garbage men come to empty them. Four years they have occupied that spot.
And then? Our new neighbors moved in. They decided to share our space, next to our mailbox.
I’m a bit finicky about my garbage cans. When they get smelly, I rinse them out with Pine-sol. This can be tricky during drought restriction summers. I’ve been known to sneak out, at night, to clean them in the cover of darkness. (Oh, please don’t rat me out!) But last summer, it seemed they were smellier than usual.
Every week I was having to clean out our cans. Much more than usual. Stinky. Smelly. Attracting flies. I’d remind my daughter to tie the bags tightly. I’d accuse my husband of tossing loose trash (mostly half empty fast food wrappers and cups) into the can without being securely hidden in a tightly tied plastic bag. But every week, when I’d collect our can from the curb, there would be ooey, gooey, sticky, smelly drippings and droppings on the bottom or coating the sides. It was gross.
But not as gross as the maggots.
I still shudder when I remember the maggots. Imagine my surprise when I brought the can up from the street and open my can and saw maggots. Not one. Not two. Hundreds. Coating the bottom of the can. The bottom. I’m all of 5’6″. My arms didn’t reach to the bottom. A broom (I tried) couldn’t get them all. I had to put the can on its side and crawl into the can armed only with a scrub brush and a spray bottle of Lysol disinfectant. (Had to, you ask? Yes. Had to. I’m OCD, remember?)
And then I remembered. We had been on vacation the previous week. There was hardly any trash in the can to begin with. In fact, there were no perishables in the can. How in the world did we have maggots?
It was then that I realized that we (and by we, I mean I) had been cleaning out our neighbor’s trash can all summer long.
So I did what any other self-respecting OCDer would do. I drew our initial, in Sharpie, by the handle of the can so we’d know whose is whose.
And they, in retaliation I suppose, drew their house numbers even bigger by the handle of their can. (They’d show us!)
But even that didn’t work. So when I went to pick up our sparkling clean recycling bin – because we (and by we, I mean I) rinse out everything that goes into our bin – only to find their recycling bin coated with layers of dried, sticky and stinky soda, milk and beer dribblings? I left it at the curb. I had proof that bin wasn’t ours. Not only were their house numbers written on the side, my husband was on his latest “I’m giving up coffee/soda/beer – take your pick” binge. No way was that bin ours. We hadn’t tossed a soda or beer can in weeks.
Yes. I pulled the can over to their side and left it at the curb. When they finally noticed, they pulled our sparkling clean can out of their garage and left it in front of our garage door. The following week they decided not to share the concrete pad next to our mailbox. They put their cans on the other side of their driveway, sitting on the grass in defiance.
They showed us.
And I don’t care.
At least I have my sweet-smelling garbage cans back.
And that’s all that matters to little Miss OCD.