Sunday evening I got home just before 7 pm. As I stepped off the elevator, I noticed a large box sitting in front of my front door. I thought it was odd, as I wasn’t expecting anything, and this is not the ordinary manner in which we receive packages around here. I walked up to it, and realized it was a familiar box. It was in fact the same one I had put into the trash room earlier that day. Someone on my floor apparently had objected to the manner in which I had disposed of it, so they brought it back to me. I don’t always love the militaristic manner in which the self-righteous old ladies on my floor take it upon themselves to enforce the rules.
There are complicated policies governing the disposal of trash in my apartment building. All trash must be neatly tied into the small plastic bags you get at the grocery/drug/convenience store (CVS bags are the preferred brand around here) before you can send it down the trash shoot. Pizza boxes must be cut up and bundled into a plastic bag as well, as there is a sign in the trash room that reminds us that “pizza boxes bring vermin.” There is a crate for newspapers and magazines, but people often dig through the crate for magazines they haven’t read, so don’t put anything objectionable or in poor taste in there. If you do, it will come back to you, either physically with a scolding note or via gossip and scornful looks. You are permitted to leave cardboard boxes in the trash room, but they can’t be filled with trash, they must be closed up and empty.
I think that’s where I went wrong. I didn’t close the flaps of my box adequately, and someone else on my floor put an old frying pan in the box. So it went from an empty box, to one that was “filled” with trash. Being that it was “filled” it was no longer acceptable for disposal in the trash room, so it was brought back to my door. The individual who returned the box to my front door left no note, no identification as to who it might have been or even an indication as to what rule they thought I had broken.
When I saw the box impeding my entry, I was suddenly filled to my eyeballs with an overwhelming sense of frustration, annoyance and a little hurt. I felt as if I was being publicly shamed by an unknown entity, my wrist slapped for being a poor participant in my community. I took the box back to the closet-sized trash room, closed the flaps and replaced it, the frying pan now sitting on top of the box as opposed to inside it. It’s a good thing the hallway remained empty for the duration of my errand, as I was ready to kick the first little old lady I saw, brittle bones be damned. I continued to gently steam as I made my dinner, not yet able to let go of the emotions surrounding a 60 second experience. My mom called and I dumped the details of the situation into her ear. Thankfully, she was able to inject a little much-needed humor into the scenario. She reminded me that there are some people who look for situations like that, and that I had probably made someone’s day by leaving the box there in it’s slightly wrong state. After we got off the phone and I was sitting at the dining room table with some stir fried cabbage and chicken, I was able to stop the proverbial smoke from shooting out my ears.
Today, when I got home, there was something even more out of place in the hallway than a cardboard box. A chicken bone, stripped of all it’s meat, was resting on the floor in front of the freight elevator. I looked at it in surprise as I walked by it to my apartment. As soon as I set my bag down, I grabbed a paper towel and headed back out to the hallway to retrieve this misplaced chicken leg. It gave me a chance to feel like I was doing something community-minded, an inadvertent reprieve for the unspoken accusation of the previous night.