For Christmas this year, I got a nice strep throat (joy to the world). Every mouthful of turkey was like swallowing a (strangely miniature) hedgehog and Ferrero Rocher were a definite no-go. Aside from that, the whole thing passed off as peacefully as we could’ve hoped, and we survived our 7th festive season as parents.
In the aftermath, when most husbands are bringing their wives to the sales, mine likes to treat me to a trip to our local Council’s dump. It’s a longstanding tradition that we all head out on the day after Boxing Day with a car load of cardboard devastation and Shloer (mostly wine) bottles to bond over refuse.
This year’s venture to the skips started out like any other. Mainly with me hurling seasonal passive aggressive remarks in the direction of my long-suffering husband, hissing things such as, “well we would have had less rubbish if Santa had remembered to put the bin out,” etc. On arrival, I huffed off to the “Cardboard Only” bin, where I held a previously immaculate record.
Except this year, there was a spanner in the works. Or rather, there was a milk carton in the cardboard. I had unintentionally broken the sacred rule of skip use – a malicious Trojan milk carton had found its way into my bag of wholesome, rule-abiding cardboard. All would’ve ended less awkwardly if I’d been working alone, spotted my infringement and shuffled back to the car clutching my rebellious 2 litre. But alas an oblivious attendant had come to my aid, having witnessed me leave a trail of shredded cardboard and free calendars between the car and the skip.
Initially I thought he was being chivalrous. I realise now he was one of those attendants who can smell a flagrant breach of the rules 4 skips and a bottle bank away.
It was he who spotted the errant milk carton first. It would’ve been better if he’d shouted, sworn at me even. But no. His reaction was the ultimate in eco humiliation. As he slowly and silently drew the milk carton from its hiding place next to a VTech box (looking fully as though it had met its end at the hands of a rabid badger), he seemed…..disappointed.
I wanted to scream at him…”It’s not what it looks like!!!” “Please forgive me!!!” “It’s never happened before!!”
But the words didn’t come (plus the strep throat and all so it was sore to talk).
We emptied the rest of the cardboard together in silence, neither of us addressing the stig(ma) of the dump.
I knew he was looking for further infringement. I had broken his trust. Things would never be the same as they were before.
I made the journey back to the car with my empty bag hanging limply from my purposeless hand. As we drove out of the dump, a high visibility jacket caught my eye and I turned my head suddenly, hopefully.
He didn’t even look up.
By far, the most rubbish day I’ve had in a long time.