Reasons You’ll Love Living in the Suburbs: Your Life Becomes Much Less Garbage-Intensive

I miss a lot of things about living in the city.  The energy of the streets.  The restaurants. The take out food.

But you know what I don’t miss? The garbage.

Garbage in the city is a nightmare.  First, there’s the smell.  Oh, Sweet Jesus, that smell.  I forgot all about that smell until I spent a night in the city a few weeks ago.  Woke up bright and early to get some coffee, walked out of the midtown hotel, and it hit me.  The smell of 1.6 million people crammed into about three square miles, of dumpsters in alleys, of overflowing garbage cans on ever corner, of storekeepers with dirty mops splashing water around on the pavement, doing nothing more than just re-animating the stink. It’s everywhere, and when you live in the city, you just kind of get used to it, the way you get used to the noise and the crowds and everything else that comes from urban living.  But, boy, if you’ve been away for a while, it’s like a slap in the face. A big smelly slap.

And it’s not just the garbage on the streets.  Dealing with garbage in your home is one of the worst parts of living in the city.  As usual, it’s all about the small spaces.  When you live in 700, or 1,000, or even 2,000 square feet, every inch of your home is precious.  So it’s just simply appalling how much of that space gets given over to garbage.

To start with, you got your garbage can, sitting in the corner of your kitchen and blocking your access to your cabinets.  And if that’s not bad enough, you’ve got ANOTHER can for your recycleables, because God Forbid you mix bottles in with your more pedestrian garbage and kill all the dolphins, or whatever.  On top of that, you’ve got your pile of newspapers piling up in a corner.  All of that stuff, taking up your precious real estate.

But that’s not all, because at some point you end up with more garbage than can fit in the cans.  Alas, it’s not yet garbage pickup day, and you’re not allowed to just put your garbage out on the street any old time you want because that would be URBAN CHAOS, so you have to pull out the bag and store it on the floor for a few days, where various moist discarded products seep through that thin layer of polypropylene to add a little urban ambiance to your apartment.

So now you’ve got your garbage can, recycling can, a pile of newspapers, and a seeping bag of filthy garbage cluttering up your small apartment.  Think of how expensive that is.  Manhattan real estate is about $1,200 per square foot.  A standard garbage can is maybe 2’x2’, which is four square feet (disclaimer – not good at math).  So one  garbage can is worth about $4,800 in space.  Add another one for recycleables, and then a few feet for the pile of newspapers, and another spot for that decomposing bag of refuse in the corner, and you’re talking about over ten grand just to keep the garbage in your home.

But it doesn’t end there.  Bad enough you have all this garbage in your home, you now have to get it down to the street.  Now, maybe that’s not so bad if you live in an elevator building, or if you’re blessed with one of those garbage chutes.  I was lucky enough to live for two years in a garbage chute building, and I miss it to this day.  Walk down the hall, open the hatch, fling the garbage down, and listen for the clunkety-clunk-clunk as it careens down 15 flights.  Just awesome.  I loved throwing stuff down that chute. I looked for things to throw out just to hear what it would sound like when they hit bottom.

But for most of my years in the city, I lived in a walk-up.  Which is also a walk-down.  Which means walking down laden with garbage – the seeping bags, clanking bottles, the bundles of newspapers that I had to tie up with twine in one of the worst chores of my week.

Here’s how it typically went:

  • Come home after a long day.
  • Realize that the apartment was filled with garbage and that the pickup is the next morning.
  • Explain to wife that I’m too tired to carry it down, promising to do it first thing in the morning.
  • Wake up to the sound of the garbage truck pulling away from my building.
  • Run down in my boxers and sandals carrying fistfuls of garbage.
  • Chase truck down the street.
  • Throw garbage directly into truck.
  • Endure disapproving stares from sanitation workers.
  • Walk back to apartment.
  • Endure disapproving stares of neighbors.
  • Get back to apartment.
  • Realize I forgot my keys.
  • Buzz up to my wife to let me in.
  • More disapproving stares.

This happened a lot.

In fact, I remember one time that I promised to bring the garbage down in the morning, woke up too late, and rather than admit to the wife that I had failed in what is a fundamental husbandly duty, I pretended to take the garbage down when I left for the morning.  But since the truck had already come, I instead carried the garbage to the corner and stealthily dumped it into a public trash can, looking nervously around for the garbage cops to come take me away.  Walking away from that trash can, having gotten away with dumping my personal trash in the public can, I felt like I was one of Ocean’s Eleven. OUTLAW!

I rode that high all day.  Then I come home, and my wife immediately confronts me with, “Did you throw our garbage in the can on the corner?”  To this day, I don’t know how she caught me.  Women are sneaky.

So that’s another reason you’ll love living in the suburbs – your life becomes much less garbage intensive.  No more garbage cans cluttering up your limited space, because the spacious kitchens all have built in refuse cabinets.  No more garbage bags in your hallway, because everyone has garages with trash cans all your own where you can dump the bags, then joyfully roll them out to the street for pickup.

And, of course, no more garbage stink on the streets, the smell of teeming, anxious masses who partied too late and too hard. No, instead you smell…nothing.  Nothing bad, nothing particularly good, just the faint scent of, well, blandness — the distinctive fragrance of the suburbs.  But in this case, bland is a LOT better than the alternative……