What Do You Say We Talk Some Real Trash?


I was in the grocery store the other day, pushing my cart around as a young man dressed in working clothes sauntered by with a 24-pack of beer lovingly cradled in his arms.

Being a common enough sight, that did not particularly get my attention.

And the question he asked his partner in the checkout line as he deposited the beer in their cart didn’t either. It was the answer he got that brought my head up.

“What about lager?” the young man asked his partner. “Well, we’ve got that five gallons, you know.”

“Oh, yeah,” the young man said thoughtfully, obviously reminded of something that had completely slipped his mind. He forgot he had five gallons of beer?

I have to admit it, that got my attention. The world can’t be in too much of an economic downturn when a young guy who works for a living can manage to lose track of the fact that he has five gallons of golden glow stashed somewhere around the shack.

That got me thinking, and as usual, by some method my brain uses to get me off the track anytime I’m enjoying myself, happy thoughts of five gallons of beer morphed into an image of the slew of gallon paint cans out in my shed that needed sorting. By the time I got up to the register all thoughts of beer were gone, replaced by the vision of a shelf groaning under a load of paint cans, something I had conveniently forgotten.

And why not? It may be hard to forget five gallons of bubbly. But house paint? Out in the shed? Whole different ball game.

Paint is something you use for a few days and then put away until the next time Mama Nature does a number on your brush work, which if there were any justice in this world would be at least five or six years.

Justice? Ho! Ho! Ho! I must be losing it.

Anyway, by the time a few years slip by a guy can be forgiven for forgetting how much Forest Green 4723 he has for the house trim. Or more likely, for forgetting what the %$#@! name or number of that trim paint was, having stupidly tossed out the last can.

Or for that matter, a guy can be forgiven for forgetting what’s in all those cans lurking out in the shed. I’ve got some cans out in the old shed that might have sprouted there like mushrooms for all I know. In fact, one of them is labeled mushroom, whatever that means.

I suppose I ought to get out there and straighten things up, but I’m getting smarter as I age. I’ll leave it to my two sons. If they want the house, they’ll have to take the paint cans with it.

And a whole lot of bank statements that need shredding too. How’s that for sneaky?

Besides, getting rid of paint cans worries me. To begin with, you know as well as I do that the minute you throw a can of paint in the trash and the garbage truck turns the corner, you’re going to spot a place under the eaves that needs that exact color.

Right? And that’s the good news.

The bad news is you don’t have either the can or the name of the paint, you’re going have to get a sample to take to the paint store. That means you’re going to have to remove 20 feet of fascia, a 4-by-8 section of siding, two lengths of guttering, and the four-foot-long piece of three-quarter-inch ply, which needs repainting, which — you are going to discover — is held on by two full tubes of liquid nails and 29 screws with rusted out heads.

But that’s not the main reason I don’t dispose of old paint cans anymore.

The biggie is the dire warning on them. “Failure to properly dispose of this product is a violation of federal law.”

Back in the days when paint had things in it that might conceivably have been something that needed to be treated with a little care we used to just toss half empty cans in the trash and wave adios. In those days, most white paints contained lead and so did a lot of reds. And then there were the cadmium yellows, the cobalt blues, the chrome greens, and that pretty shade of violet that had arsenic in it.

But these days? Red 33. Green 5. Yellow 1. Shoot! They put that stuff in things I rub all over my body, so what’s to worry?

Or is there something I ought to know?

No! No! Don’t tell me! Let me die ignorant.

Anyway, the thick, goopy paint they sell these days is water soluble stuff that runs back off the house starting with the first rain, so if the EPA wants to keep it out of the environment they better hurry over to my place and install a catchment basin.

Besides which, just what does “properly” mean anyway? Would it be asking too much to put some instructions on the cans?

Anyway, for all I know “properly” means wearing formal attire. So what is it? White tie? Black tie? Do I have to RSVP the trash man? Or wear a red, white and blue hazmat suit?

And come to think of it, EPA, here’s a question for you: Where did all that stuff I’m not allowed to put in the ground come from in the first place? Huh? Huh? Tell me that!

Have we been importing paint from Mars? No! From the Moon? No! Saturn?

Then I guess it came out of the ground, didn’t it? So why can’t I put it back in?

Phoeey! I’m digging a hole out in my back yard and dumping all those old paint cans into it. Then I’m going to go look up that guy with the five gallons of lager and ...


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