“Take out the garbage”
A command that brings shudders to all within earshot. In a split second the kitchen is empty. Not a soul is in sight.
Mother cries out: “ Take out the garbage, please. “
Once again the house echoes with an earnest appeal to health and sanitation.
Mother hears some movement in the living room and she pleadingly says, “ Peter, will you take out the garbage? “
No answer. She puts down the neatly packaged Hefty bag, and she looks into the living room. It is only the cat she heard. The cat is eating the leaves of the poinsettia plant. The leaves of the poinsettia plant are supposedly quite poisonous, yet the cat has spent the last two months defoliating the remains of the Christmas season. We have looked for signs of illness in the cat, but none have surfaced. Perhaps the plant becomes non-toxic as spring approaches. Mother knows there is no time to worry about the cats’ health – the garbage waits. Besides the cat has nine lifes.
The distance between the packaged garbage and the outdoor garbage can is approximately 15 feet. It might as well be 15 miles. Mother shouts again, “Susan, would you come down here?” Susan is glued to her television. She is studying the Alpo commercial. Susan has never been so focused, so concentrated, and so deaf. Her room is on the second floor, just near the stairwell. With a slight movement of her left foot, she gently closes her bedroom door. A muffled sound comes through the door, and sifts through the barks of twelve Alpo satisfied Cocker Spaniels.
Peter is in the basement trying desperately to find his homework assignment. Peter is resolved not to take out the garbage. Peter is convinced that he is the unofficial house garbageman. In fact, he rarely takes out the garbage. He thinks about it the most, and he worries about it the most, but he also avoids it the most. Nonetheless, Peter is convinced that he has disposed of more Hefty bags than anyone in the family.
When Sigmund Freud wrote,“ Civilization and its Discontents” he must have been thinking about family garbage and Peter. Peters’ development was progressing quite well, until he discovered the meaning of, “Peter will you take out the garbage. “ At that critical moment, Peters’ bonds to the family were forever weakened. Peter was, for the first time, aware of the enormous demands of family living. He would never be the same obedient son.
What is it about the phrase, “take out the garbage,” that can so undermine the unity of a family? How can one common chore cause such personal and group havoc?
At one time the problem with garbage may have been the messiness of the plain, brown, union made garbage bag. Refuse such as sauces, grease, and egg yolks would melt the paper and cover your hands, clothes and stairways. Today we are blessed with the Hefty bag. The plastic garbage bags of today insure cleanliness in the home: garbage can, sanitation truck and in the dump!
If messiness is not the problem, perhaps the word garbage is the cause of such disunity. Said with either an American accent, or an English accent, e.g. Garrrbaaaage, the word is rather unappealing.
No, I am certain that it isn’t the word, garbage. I believe that the core issue is the act of, “ taking out,” the garbage. “ Taking out “ means finding shoes, putting on pants, coping with rain and snow, stuffing an already overflowing garbage can, missing the final touchdown, hanging up the phone, and in general disturbing the peace and tranquility of the home. After a day of work, school or play, home is where the heart is, and not in the garbage can.