Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Case of the "Copy" Container: A Caper of Confusion

Yesterday you would have called me crazy.

Today, though, you can call me astute.  :)

For the last several months, I have had the sneaking suspicion that someone was messing with my recycling bin.

I believed that the culprit was occasionally replacing my recycling bin with a look-alike copy.  And, then, he would switch it back sometimes, just to confuse me.

Knowing that such a suspicion would cause others to think I was crazy, I told no one.  Instead, I observed everything with great attention to detail...and let time pass.

I put my recycling bin out with the trash every Tuesday night.  When I leave for work on Wednesday mornings, it's still there.  And when I return from work on Wednesday afternoons, the container is empty.

A few months ago, when this little caper began, I could have sworn that the green hue of my recycling bin had lightened.  Could it have just been that the plastic was starting to fade in the sunlight?  Was I really that keenly aware of the shade of this green that I was noticing its natural and gradual change?

The next week, I thought I had lost my mind in the previous one -- because the recycling bin was back to the same, slightly-darker green that I had remembered it being.

But then one afternoon, I noticed a curious but small blotch of white paint in the bottom of my recycling bin.  Worried that it was spilled milk that would soon start to stink, I tried to wipe it up.  This attempt, however, lead to the discovery of the blotch being made of white paint and not dairy.  Such a revelation set off alarms in my head, for no white paint had I used recently!

Two Wednesdays later, the little white blotch of paint was gone -- and I convinced myself that perhaps it had chipped off when the waste management crew was handling the container and dumping its contents.

But, two weeks more, the little white blotch of paint was back.

So who would be switching out my recycling bin occasionally -- and why bother?  This was my muse every Wednesday afternoon when I would bring the empty bin back into my house.

I ruled out the possibility of the waste management crew inadvertently switching containers with my neighbor across the street.  Since they are in the township and I am in the borough, our trash is collected on different days.  Since mine is a corner property bordered by a pasture, I have no other neighbors with whom it could be easily switched.

As time passed and I continued to observe the pattern of the alternating bins, I developed the following hypothesis:  Since the design on the recycling bin is not specific to the town in which I live (but instead labeled for the county), I surmised that the culprit could live anywhere in this county but worked somewhere NEAR MY HOUSE.

To avoid the cost of paying for trash removal, the culprit drives to work on Wednesday mornings with his trash and recycling bin in tow.  Perhaps he deposits his trash bags in a dumpster somewhere, and he leaves his recycling bin at my house.  He must drop it off sometime after 7:30, because--by that time--I am already at work.  Since his work day ends before mine does, he picks up the empty recycling bin on his way home.  And occasionally he picks up the wrong one.

The other Wednesday, I found a tangible clue in the bottom of the recycling bin.  Stuck to the side of the bin was a clear plastic lid, the kind that looked like it once covered a container of potato salad that one would buy from the deli of a grocery store.  As I reach down to examine the label, I noticed that it said "Oregon Dairy" on it, a store that is a few towns over, meaning that the culprit is certainly not a resident of my town (corroborating my suspicion that he was only here for employment...and recycling).

Perhaps you think that my rationale is wildly erroneous and presumptuous.  But today, when I came home during my lunch break to pick up something I had forgotten, I saw it.

There on my lawn were TWO green recycling bins waiting for collection, his overflowing with tuna cans and empty bottles of V8.  I would have surely taken a picture for you if I had had my camera, but indeed I left it at school, figuring my dash home would be anything but monumental like this!

When I got home from school, he had already been by to pick up a container, leaving one for me.  And, this time, it was the one without the white paint that he left for me, thankfully.

But, when I picked up the recycling bin, stuck to the bottom (with moisture from the sweating grass) was a receipt...with his name and phone number on it! 

Scribbled onto the receipt next to the typed words "potato salad" was the word "returned."  At the bottom, the reason listed was "expired," followed by his full name, address, and phone number.

A search on Google revealed my culprit to be a rather handsome but obviously irresponsible 25-year-old (if I've got the right guy, which I'm pretty sure I do).  Now I'm thinking of a clever way to get back at him after these 9 months of wondering...