Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Love Letter to My Garbage Chute

Have you ever lived in an old house or apartment that had a medicine cabinet with a razor slot in the back? (Please don't be distracted by the unidentifiable and vaguely alien-like blob in this picture. This isn't my medicine cabinet, it's his. Courtesy of a Google search.)

I did. I had one in an old apartment in Wilmington, Del., and then in Boston. I don't remember how I realized what the slit was for. But when I found out, I was fascinated. The idea that someone would build a house and think it was a sustainable option to keep dropping razor blades into the wall astounds me. Wouldn't they someday fill the wall? And who would get them out? When they demolish old homes, do razor blades just come tumbling down?

And then the idea that no one ever thought razor technology would change, and that razor blades would be a staple forever in our homes ... or maybe that's why they thought it would be sustainable. "Someday, someone will invent disposable razors that won't use straight blades, so for now, we'll just drop them behind the wall."

Why didn't they design any disposals for anything else behind the wall?

Today, I am spoiled by living in a condo that was entirely remodeled before I moved in, so no more razor slot for me. But it's in a building that was constructed in 1958, and we do have an exciting feature: our garbage chute.

It's right outside my front door, to the left. (There's another on the second floor.) The remodelers painted it a nice bright silver.

Unlike with the razor slot of old, the garbage doesn't go into the wall for good; it drops into a big plastic garbage bin in the garage, which of course, someone (read: usually me) has to roll out on Sunday nights. But that doesn't diminish my joy of being able to step out, lift that magic door, and drop in my refuse (usually cat poo).

When I first moved in, I was speaking with one of the contractors who remodeled the building, and he was lamenting how small it was. (You can't tell its size in the pic; the opening is slightly smaller than the size of a small laptop computer.) He said he called the manufacturer in an attempt to at least replace the rusting door, but the company told him they don't make that size chute anymore, that they haven't made it since the '60s or '70s because they realized right away that it wasn't big enough for most customers' trash. They could even pinpoint what part of the city my building was in, judging by when San Francisco neighborhoods were constructed.

I was thrilled -- not only did we have a novelty, we had a novel novelty that no one else can get now, even if they try!

I said to him, it must be big enough for a regular trash bag, because I see them in the bin downstairs. No, the contractor said, your neighbors must be walking them down.

Not! My cute, sweet neighbor The Cop (we just call each other "Nabor") and I like to see exactly how big of a bag we can stuff into that hole. Sometimes I swing open my door when I hear him at the chute. "Oh no, you're not!" I'll say as he wrestles yet another improbably large bag of trash into the opening. And it always goes down.

Someday, we agree, something's going to get stuck in the chute. But won't it be fun to see how much stuff we'll have to throw down after it to get it unstuck? I can hardly wait.

Who knew garbage could be such fun? Since the garbage bin is right by our washer and dryer, it's also fun to wait for one of the four of us to do laundry and then throw things down to scare the crap out of them! Tee hee.


themikestand said...

I read somewhere that the razor blade "chute" was an effort to control the mouse population, the blades randomly falling into the wall like little guillotines.

OK, I just made that up. But hey, you never know.

(stupid blogger killed my first attempt to comment)

Stella Haven said...

I almost believed you! I was worried about the random rodents running into a razor blade blizzard ...