Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Maggot Mistake

You learn something every day if you're careful enough to pay attention, and sometimes even if you're not the blunt force of an experience is enough to learn you anyway. In any case, the following is a bit of a long form apology to my sister-in-law, who suffered grave embarassment due to an act of goodwill on my part gone wrong.

Jill (The Special Lady) and I were until recently living with our in-laws waiting to close on the house, and during that time, after a decade or more calling my own shots, I slowly learned how to be a gracious long-term houseguest. It's small things that make a difference, chipping in for groceries, closing doors and turning out lights, putting stuff away, doing dishes, not pumping the AC out at 69 degrees.

Around a house with 3 children the ambient entropy creates a consistent list of chores and so it's nice to tackle a thing or two that slips through the cracks without expectation of praise or remuneration.

So, one Monday back in August we were really feeling generous and decided a civil thing would be to barbecue the five pounds of chicken Jill's sister had bought and hadn't gotten around to yet. We got home after work and opened the fridge to discover a full-blown funk odyssey underway. Raw chicken doesn't keep forever. No matter, I wrapped it in a plastic bag and took it out to the trash and we went out and bought more chicken.

Now, coming from San Francisco, where high taxes pay for niceties like twice-weekly trash pick-up and mild weather slows the decaying forces of archaea and insects, you can toss out 5 pounds of spoiled chicken and not think twice. In the Philly burbs, during the hottest week of August with once-weekly trash detail on Friday, this was a bad idea.

By Wednesday a new evil was in the air and accompanying that stink was a writhing maggot orgy that was even scaring off the supernaturally-ravenous Bala Cynwyd squirrel population (who had previously eaten squirrel-sized holes in the plastic lids of the garbage cans in their lust for human trash). At the same time as it was revolting, it was also kind of spectacular how life could respond with such abundance. I'm not officially-licensed in this kind of math, but if I had to guess I'd say there were 100,000 maggots in that trash can, easy, each one furiously wiggling like a grain of soft-cooked white rice on ecstacy.

The thought of a spray-bottle of bleach crossed my mind, as did gasoline and flame, but recalling how gross problems can unexpectedly snowball, I decided against introducing toxic chemicals or comustible fuel into the situation. Which made things a test of endurance to see how bad things could get before Friday.

Finally, on Friday, my poor sister-in-law had a run-in with the garbage men. She happened to be out on the drive way when they came, and had no option but to take their cold, judging stares as they removed our low-rent, little problem.

My excuse is that I was just trying to make a nice, home-cooked meal and take out the trash. But it was my mistake and that should have been me facing down those garbage men. Jo-Anne if you're reading, I apologize.