No Dumping

I’m on sabbatical / unabashedly unemployed for two weeks resting my brain before my next challenge.  It’s been good – almost too good – to have some time off without even the trace of a work email to check.

I’ll probably share some other stuff from my sabbatical but this post is going to be about compost.  Or more specifically about a very specific bag of compost I encountered  at the ATM machine this morning

My AM routine involves getting a muffin at the bakery across the street. I also had to get some cash for the cleaning guy this morning, so after muffin acquisition I crossed the street in the other direction to the market.  This particular market is the source of some truly precious “Overheard on 43rd” quotes, but today it launched itself into a whole new dimension of weird.

There was what appeared to be a 10 gallon bag of moldy lettuce blocking access to the ATM machine.

Here’s the brain space Austinites live in – and it’s why I think much of the “Keep Austin Weird” mantra is actually on the detrimental side: I knew that whatever else I did about the bag of moldy lettuce, moving it or revealing  it was inconveniencing me in any way was NOT ALLOWED .  That lettuce was now part of my day.  It was my responsibility to support and maintain the atmosphere around the lettuce and cope with it as though I had not one whit of irritation to give . Lettuce had achieved inertial one-ness with the backdrop.  It was here before I was. Who was I to think I was so special that I could bitch about the presence of the lettuce? Too bad if you can’t reach the pin pad.

What could be done, though, as I was standing awkwardly to the side of the ATM machine trying not to step on it while inserting my card, was a Jocular Inquiry.  There were two cashiers and a manager standing at the ready to answer my carefully pitched question about this 10 gallon bag of brown lettuce.

Me: Oh hey, haha, what’s this bag here?

Clerk #1: Ummm. Uh. I think it’s a bag of compost some guy left?

Me: And…we’re saving it for him?

Manager: YEAH. So now if you have any sort of trash stuff you want to bring in here and drop off just feel free.

[Note: Manager was skating dangerously close to being not-hip about the compost.  Had he not been wearing an obscure band t-shirt and automatically grandfathered into hipness by virtue of working at this particular market, he would have been skating on said ice with heated blades.]

Clerk #2: Yeah. That guy accidentally left it here last night.

Me: So…you’re saving this guy’s compost for him in front of the ATM Machine?

Manager: YEAH. Who brings their compost to the market? Why would you even do that?

Clerk #1: Ummmm. Uh. I think…I think he was taking it somewhere?

Clerk #2: Yeah, he’ll be back for it.

Me: Well…like did he call about it?

Now appeared Manager #2.  She has been there less time than the other manager but for some reason in all conversations, actions and prevailing theories she is the Automatic Queen.  I think this is due to her age and her complete lack of hipness, which throws everyone else backwards to when they were 14 and Mom caught them smoking.

Manager #2: What are you talking about?

Clerk #1: The bag of lettuce or whatever.

Manager #2: WELL! That. That’s nothing. That guy is coming back for that.

This conversation was clearly over, the ins and outs of the situation decided beyond appeal. I got my cash and left, giddy at the thought of being able to relate this little exchange on the internet. It’s a testament to the fullness of my unemployed-but-overscheduled day that I completely forgot about it until I went back to the market to get drip pans and lentils.  Also eggs. I bought eggs.

The compost situation came back to me in a flash…and the bag was gone.

This put me in an  an awkward situation because I wanted to know what happened to the compost but there was a completely different set of clerks now.  As I was checking out I decided to ask anyway, as it was at least theoretically possible that the compost retrieval or disposal happened after the 1:00 shift change.

NuClerk #1: Do you want a bag?


[Okay second note: THE BAGS SITUATION in this city is completely out of hand.  They banned plastic bags for environmental reasons. The ban was repealed but that was after stores started fully enjoying the increase in profit margins that resulted from not carrying bags, so the plastic bags have never been restored.

This particular store takes it one step even farther and acts like brown paper bags are in short supply.  They will put 30 items in one brown bag and then hand you the eggs to carry home in your other hand.  It’s some shit.]

NuClerk #1: *waves drip pan at me evocatively to indicate that she doesn’t think I need a bag because I can easily put the lentils in the drip pans and carry the eggs*

Me: UHHHHHHHHHHH. No. No I don’t. I don’t need a bag. No.

[Third Note: Y’all I really did take that amount of time to figure out if I could justify getting a bag. I wanted one with all of my soul. But I also wanted to maintain a level of personal hipness that would grant me entree into finding out about the compost.]

Me: Hey…What happened to the compost?

NuClerk #1: Not sure.

Me: Because there was this big bag of compost here this morning by the ATM machine and I wondered what happened to it.

NuClerk #1: What happened to it? You mean they didn’t throw it out?

Me: *sliding off to the side so that my conversation doesn’t prevent the next customer from being checked out. Because I’m polite like that YOU’RE WELCOME*….So yeah there were two schools of thought, one being that the guy who left the compost was going to come get it and then another decidedly more annoyed one that said it should just be moved from in front of the ATM machine.

NuClerk #2: The compost? There was compost?

NuClerk #1: Well gosh. I’m all wondering about that now myself. I wonder what happened?

Me: Oh. I’ll come back tomorrow morning and find out.

After which I rolled on out of there with my drip pans, lentils and eggs.

So I leave it to you to decide which of the characters was really the weirdest – the person who apparently brought their compost to the market and LEFT IT THERE or the person who remembered that fact 12 hours later and inquired about it to someone who was only at best going to be tangentially involved.

This post continues on a theme about how our attempts at sustainability are gradually inconveniencing us to the point where we’re all being driven insane. See Also: LightBulbs.

But still, man. WHY? Why bring compost to the grocery store? Why save that compost so that the original owner could come back and get it? Why put it in front of the ATM machine of all stupid places?

Austin. Do it like a local.