Today, even the most of mundane of tasks can quickly becomes inspiration for that dystopian novel I've been itching to write.
Negotiating with cable and Internet companies, for example, is an ersatz Kafkaesque experience. And trying to travel across a city on public transport is a mind-bending scenario straight from the pages of J. G. Ballard. The effort required to recycle unwanted materials, meanwhile, is pure Orwellian nightmare.
I merely wanted to dispose of some clippings from the garden; a few sticks, weeds and miscellaneous undesirable greenery dumped into a plastic barrel; a typical Saturday afternoon haul. But judging by his suspicious nature and interrogative manner, the custodian at the town recycling center is more interested in acting like O'Brien, Big Brother's local waste management agent and enforcer.
What's in the barrel, he demanded, when I showed up at his little municipal fiefdom, as if I were an obviously shady character arriving on a Middle Eastern carrying what was clearly a suitcase with a false-bottom.
Just some yard waste, I told him.
From your garden?
Did you fill the barrel yourself?
Did anyone help you fill the barrel?
Did anyone ask you put waste that was not from your garden into the barrel?
Does the barrel contain any tropical or exotic species of plant not commonly found in the North East of the United States?
I don't think so. It's just some weeds and stuff that came out of our backyard.
Are there any dead rabbits, vermin, birds or deceased livestock in the barrel?
Not unless they crawled in there to die while I've been standing here talking to you.
There's no plastic, glass or other non-organic recyclable material in the barrel?
Mind if I inspect the contents?
Be my guest.
He leaned into the barrel, rummaging around its depths like a drunk searching for the last cold beer in a picnic cooler full of Diet Coke and Dr Pepper. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to root out any crushed peyote leaves, executed hedgehogs or contraband latticework.
Just some yard waste, I repeated, when his head reemerged from the barrel. A few sticks, weeds and things.
Grudgingly, the custodian was forced to let me and my barrel through. Silo 101, he grunted, indicating a huge green shed structure on the left.
When I returned home, I seriously began to consider starting to compost instead of revisiting my ordeal with O'Brien at the recycling center. After all, to paraphrase Orwell, he who controls the recycling controls the pain-in-the-ass, but perhaps he who controls the compost can at least control the recycling.