There are few visible things that shout what is wrong about a city more than its visible trash. The 1970 film The Out of Towners, starring Jack Lemmon, is set in New York City. Lemmon, who is visiting the city from Ohio for a job interview in Manhattan, confronts every imaginable problem and setback in an unrelenting assault in New York City meets man and wife. One of the elements portrayed in the basket of city ills is a garbage strike in mid summer, a common stereotypical theme particularly embraced by outsiders that are not city lovers. What better icons to represent all that is disgusting in an urban environment that rats or garbage?
Technological progress moves on, yet the methods and means of trash pickup have fundamentally not changed. Pickups are typically made by the sanitation department in early morning, hence, trash is put out curbside the night before, adorning the city sidewalks even in the finest of neighborhoods.
Many buildings have dedicated areas indoors so that garbage does not have to sit on the street. However, many do not and it is not always possible to retrofit a small building with facilities. In neighborhoods with tenement style buildings, there often is a small area in front where garbage cans are kept for use by tenants.
None of these solutions are particularly attractive and in all cases, passersby add their personal refuse, taking an unsightly situation and making it worse. There are also garbage pickers and the homeless who often tear open bags of trash to examine the contents, leaving the sidewalk strewn with garbage. Snow mounds themselves are often used as trash receptacles, only to reveal its contents after melting - see my story, Snow Temples here.
The recent blizzard has left the city with mountains of curbside snow, making trash collection in many areas all but impossible, with the usual finger pointing and name calling as the garbage festers. In celebration of the scenario, I have rewritten the holiday classic song Silver Bells:
City sidewalks, dirty sidewalks
Dressed in post-snowstorm style
In the air there's a feeling
Children laughing, people gasping
Meeting pile after pile
And on every street corner you'll see
Bags of trash
Bags of trash
It's Pickup time in the city
One by one,
Hear trucks come
Soon it will be Pickup Day