Much Ado About Garbage (with apologies to William Shakespeare)

Submitted into Contest #141 in response to: Write about someone who critiques things for a living, or acts like they do.... view prompt

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Contemporary Fiction Funny

EASY LIVING

CONDOMINIUMS


Memo #6


To:                 Owners, Residents and Tenants

From:            Mabel Martha Voight, Board Director – Building Maintenance

c.c.                 Jason Johnson, Board President – Board President,

Easy Living Condominiums

Date:             July 7, 2022

Re:                 New Garbage Policy


___________________________________________


Effective immediately, all garbage MUST be sorted according to the city bylaws of October 15, 2021.

The Board has been forced into taking drastic means to avoid further penalties with non-compliant household garbage collected from our building.

There will now be a $10 fine added to any offender/offenders’ condominium fees should their garbage be deemed unsuitable for collection. This fine will be added per offense.

Compost food, recyclable materials and household waste are to be collected according to the following standards and disposed of on the dates set below.

(See second page.)

***


Pale yellow recycled paper notices had been shoved under all the sage green hallway doors of Easy Living Condominiums. Which meant that there were some 232 individuals who were hopping mad when they stepped on the notice coming home after work that Thursday. Some didn’t see the notice until later but all were in agreement—this was not the easy living that had been promised in the realtor brochures.

Inside the building, friends, casual acquaintances and total strangers met around the garbage chute on their floor; clutching the notice or waving it around before tossing it into recycling. Some notices had already hit the garbage waste disposal.

“Who does she think she is? Telling us how to ‘wrap’ our garbage!”

“They don’t call her the Garbage Police for nothing, eh?”

“We can’t put broken items down the chute?! If she thinks I am going to ride down all the way to the parking lot to throw out a broken tea kettle, she can…”

“The board is wasting all this money. First hiring Voigt and then installing cameras and a new chute system. It’s like a prison here.”

“It smells. And not just Voigt’s notice. Anyone want coffee at my place?”

“Sure! We can plan how to fight this.”

Those on the third, seventh and ninth floors took their gripes into a neighbor’s apartment and enjoyed strong cappuccinos. The talkers on the second, fourth, fifth and sixth floors went out to the neighborhood bars to further discuss the garbage issues, Ms. Voigt and how the hometown baseball team was doing.

The penthouse owners weren’t involved. They had special considerations in their yearly agreements regarding the board and its business. They were decidedly above the fray of petty, smelly grievances.

It was the social activists on the eighth floor who rallied for an intervention. They began with letters to the board, their city councilors and the mayor. Late that night, they had prepared neon posters, strong words in heavy black letters and a picketing of the building planned for the upcoming Saturday.

Mabel Martha Voigt couldn’t have cared less. She was a waste warrior seeking triumph over those who were the lazy, the stupid or the outright callous residents of the building. Mabel had been widowed in middle age and was now living month to month on a tight budget. When the board offered her the opportunity for work in lieu of a portion of her condo fees, she had felt vindicated that her ongoing battle to bring order to the slovenly chaos of waste removal had been recognized.

The board had hoped it would curtail some of her critical and abrasive behaviors; Mabel would be recognized for all her conscientious public duty with health and safety. It hadn’t worked out that way, exactly.

Well, yes, the waste system in the building was more streamlined under Mabel’s purview. It had only taken the loss of three valuable visitor parking spots, located close to the automatic garage door, to make room for the three new garbage dumpsters, two new recycling bins and the malodorous compost container. All for the lowly cost of $10,000 per month and a fresh, carefully screened, contractor.

What had surprised everyone with Mabel’s system was the resolution of some ongoing problems that the building had struggled with since the condominium was incorporated. Bringing the dumpsters inside the underground parking from the old alley location had actually terminated the illegal drop off of unwanted furniture (especially mattresses and renovation debris) by unknown violators. Everyone agreed, as well, that there was no longer a concern a street person would find the warmth of garbage bins less dangerous to sleep in than on a park bench or a shelter cot. Additionally, the modern chute system allowed sorting into the three waste elements in a way that all acknowledged was efficient and gave one a magnanimous feeling of doing the right thing for the environment.

However, there was only so much change and commitment that the building residents were willing to allow.

Mabel had begun what she had believed was an educative direction with memos to the owners, residents and tenants. The first one had been entitled “Making Your Garbage Smell Better” and had focused on the odors from items that weren’t properly washed, rinsed and dried prior to disposal. It hadn’t gone over well.

Mr. Johnson and the other five sitting board members had heard from many angry and insulted owners six months ago. It had been a well-attended meeting; held when Mabel was away visiting her daughter in Seattle.

“How does she expect us to WASH all the stuff that doesn’t get recycled? She’s crazy!”

“She found a PB jar lid in my garbage bag. She was upset that I hadn’t cleaned all the peanut butter off of it before putting it in the garbage. She didn’t even acknowledge that the lid wasn’t recyclable and I had it in the right bag.”

“Well, I forgot to wipe the crumbs out of a bread bag and she was hopping mad that I was encouraging bugs into the recycling chutes.”

“She’s so obnoxiously right about everything we can’t get her to see reason.”

“If she blows that friggin’ whistle once more, I swear I will send her down the chute, upside down without the ties facing up. Doesn’t she ever sleep?”

The Board had had to concede that their course of indirect action had spoiled like a plastic container of expired yogurt. Once the residents had voiced their concerns and left the meeting, the Board members gave a collective sigh. What to do about Mabel?

In the intervening months, Mabel had issued further memos with the tersely-worded injunctions an astute personal injury lawyer would employ.

Memo 2: Only You Can Prevent Toaster Fires (and do you know where the extinguishers are located?)

Memo 3: Noise Bylaws and Your Guests-- When to Show Them the Elevator

Memo 4: Recycling Means Flattening All Your Boxes! Even the toothpaste box, people.

Memo 5: All That’s Compostable Can Leak: Let Your Coffee Grounds Dry First (or, Double Bagging in Compostable Bags)

Mabel was nothing if not passionate in her pursuit for a maintained building.

This month, the Board had received the City’s Waste Management fine via registered mail. Easy Living and its 112 owners were ordered to pay $5000 for a first offense against the city’s bylaws (Section 19, subsection 2a) which stated that all garbage must be in approved green recycled plastic bags (as sold in local grocery and hardware stores.)

Mabel had taken it as a personal insult. Residents were deliberately not purchasing the (rather costly) correct bags just to spite her sense of duty. She drafted a terse but detailed (in Plain Language) memo for the Board to approve.

People were knocking on her door, calling her on her landline and sending her emails—all decrying the degree of exactitude contained in her latest Memo. Mabel’s backbone was stiffer than the calcium and lime buildup on the main water line; she resisted returning insults and name calling when confronted by angry condo owners. She did agree to a meeting with the Board and all those interested in finding some solution that may have escaped Mabel. (She highly doubted there was any other solution except strict adherence to the law…as interpreted by herself.)

The Board invited the City to have a representative employee (manager or supervisor) attend the meeting. David Anwar sat quietly through the preamble and the introduction of those in attendance. Prepared to provide the insight of how the City ran its Waste Management program, its restrictions and needs, David was impressed with Ms. Voigt who demonstrated her accurate and knowledgeable understanding of his department. Together, they were able to guide the Board and the owners to a feasible means of thwarting future fines and penalties.

Following the meeting, David asked Mabel to join him at the gluten free coffee shop in the adjoining building. It was the beginning of a friendship as serviceable as recycled tire parquet flooring. When David accepted a position in a smaller city as City Manager, he asked Mabel to apply to be the Waste Management Director. She saw the opportunity as a sustainable development and accepted with alacrity.

The Board and Owners of Easy Living Condominiums gave Mabel bee pollinator flowers in a reusable container and a thank you card of paper mâché and pressed spices. Mabel was given permission to use the service elevator for extended hours on the day of her move. After all, she was an original owner who had contributed to their Easy Living lifestyle, despite her penchant for rigidity.

One resident, when sharing a drink in the bar with those from his sixth floor, toasted Mabel. He had been volatile in his dislike for the lady, even confessing to “wanting to strangle her with her whistle and chop her body up in pieces; properly disposed according to Section 19, subsection 2a.”

Someone else in the group laughed. “If you had killed her, we could have investigated and had a podcast just like Only Murders in the Building!” she said. To that, the others raised their glasses again.

To be honest, some seriously considered her idea as a missed opportunity. 

April 12, 2022 04:06

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17 comments

Rebecca Stack
00:31 Apr 22, 2022

Enjoyed reading this it's really well written and witty. You conveyed all the emotion across well, so it felt like right there with them all. Wow Mabel really let the power go to her head. I wasn't expecting the ending either x

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Lavonne H.
03:00 Apr 22, 2022

Thank you Rebecca! Methinks I am a bit of Mabel; it was a little too easy to write her lines and behaviours. [I am the eldest of 8; it comes naturally...being bossy ;) ] I am glad the ending worked because I had initially thought of murder but after writing just one story with it, I just do not have the stomach for it. I truly appreciate your time and feedback. Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Felice Noelle
23:32 Apr 16, 2022

Lavonne: Hey, this was a really clever take on the prompt. I was really drawn in to the story by your unusual "hook." The story had moments of rancor and other moments of humor, although sarcastic, still funny. Thanks for a really fun read.My favorite was the third to last paragraph. I'll bet every condo association, every neighborhood has its Mabel. I know my neighborhoods always have, and I work hard not to become Mabel-ized as I age. It's a battle. This was delightful. Good work and keep writing. Maureen

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Lavonne H.
00:07 Apr 18, 2022

Dear Maureen, Thank you so much for all your comments. I do have a sarcastic nature which I try to curtail in my language. It 'leaks out' at times: one employer said it was my "lapsed Catholic self-righteousness!!" So it was way toooooo easy to give Mabel dialogue and actions that would be critical of her fellow neighbors. At first, I was going to have them murder her but that seemed like I would be knocking off the TV series so another character and the possibility of happy ever after. (I may kill her off in the mystery novel I am planning...

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Francis Daisy
12:11 Apr 15, 2022

Best line: “She’s so obnoxiously right about everything we can’t get her to see reason.” Don't we all know and loathe people just like this? Great story!

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Lavonne H.
14:52 Apr 15, 2022

Thanks Francis for feedback. Er, my husband and I have a new word for when people are being so controlling...we call them 'Mabel'! The stories for this week are amazingly creative in directions I never considered. I will need to step out of my comfort zone. So anytime I fall back into a mundane and boring story, let me know ok? Another writer suggested more characterization for Mabel to explain why she is the way she is but...I am stymied at how to work it in (I don't do well with drafts.) Agggghhhhh! The joys of writing! Yours in writing, ...

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Francis Daisy
14:43 Apr 16, 2022

Is there a fun acronym for Mabel? More annoying bullies entering lives? That is a great suggestion to build the background story for Mabel. I may borrow that idea and take a look back at some of my stories to see if that will inspire me this week... Blessings, FD

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Chris Campbell
04:25 Apr 14, 2022

I would not like living under those oppressive rules. Mabel would force me into eating out all of the time. This is very funny but sadly true in shared spaces. I liked the line, "The Board had had to concede that their course of indirect action had spoiled like a plastic container of expired yogurt." Imagine what Mabel would have said about Rats in the garbage! Well done!

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Lavonne H.
04:37 Apr 14, 2022

Chris, thank you for sharing how oppressive Mabel's rules really are. Since I am so much like her, I fear the neighbors would have shoved me down a chute (if we had one) a long, long time ago! Rats in the garbage would stand no chance with her --armed with rodent spray, bleach and rubber gloves, methinks ;) I may keep her as a character in a mystery novel I am planning. She would make an easy victim for murder, eh? Thanks for your support and feedback. If you celebrate Easter, may it be a happy one (rat free so to speak.) Yours in writing, ...

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Chris Campbell
04:41 Apr 14, 2022

Ha ha ha, seal that chute now! Hope you have a great Easter weekend, too. I wrote an earlier whodunnit type of story called, Mr. Pratt's Game. If you get a moment, please take a look. Chris

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Zack Powell
21:18 Apr 13, 2022

First and foremost: I'm glad to see another story from you, Lavonne. It's always a pleasure to read your work. I really love the idea of adding email correspondence into fiction. I could've read a whole story of just that. Might make for an interesting idea for a future piece of yours. Having never lived in a condo, I probably missed a few jokes about that type of lifestyle, but the story was still a fun ride. I adore imperfect protagonists, and Mabel certainly has her fair share of flaws. But I'm glad you didn't vilify her - she's not evil ...

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Lavonne H.
03:31 Apr 14, 2022

Dear Zack, First and foremost...thank you, thank you, and thank you! Your warm support is truly welcome after a rough week. What I relish is your insight and suggestions. Re; Mabel's character...my guess is that the judges will second you on the character development! What I didn't want to add was a bunch more of exposition and I didn't know which supporting character could help her tell her story (duh, what kind of writer can't get their characters to talk?!) I am actually planning a mystery novel around a condominium (I know, it's already ...

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Ed Hinojos
13:52 Apr 13, 2022

As one who lived in a condo in Maryland, I definitely understand this story. I paid too much for the condo, then I had to pay monthly fees. All of this to be nagged at by a board member about my grass being 1/4 of an inch too long or my flower pots not all being the same color. Like I said I can understand. I felt that frustration come right back as I read your story. It was a good read. Thank you.

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Lavonne H.
14:20 Apr 13, 2022

Oh, Ed! I had hoped that it would make people laugh; I never thought about how experiences with real life would come back to frustrate someone. I must apologize for that. I have lived my entire adult life in a townhouse condo (35 years) and now in a seniors' condo complex. I think this story was to "let off steam" about some window issues we are having. And there is a lot of Mabel in me ;) I sometimes wonder if we don't all feel the truth about being 'sardines in a sardine can' and are packed together way too much. But then, we don't live in...

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Ed Hinojos
20:26 Apr 13, 2022

Thanks... I did laugh at myself for my past frustrations with the HOA. It is good to laugh. It is much easier to laugh now that I am back home in Texas.

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Riel Rosehill
16:43 Apr 12, 2022

Hi Lavonne! Oh, the reluctance to recycling..! Is it strange of me to relate much to Mabel? Maybe that's why I loved the sentence “She’s so obnoxiously right about everything we can’t get her to see reason.” so much, haha-- She's right, she's right! Okay, I'm not sure about washing non-recyclables, I suppose that's a legit complaint! And "Only Murderers in the Building" may be a potential future story if the residents feel strongly enough about that missed opportunity of getting their own podcast? Thanks for sharing this, it was a fun read!...

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Lavonne H.
17:13 Apr 12, 2022

Dear Riel, As always, thank you for your feedback and support. I wasn't sure if stories for submission only were readily found and you found it! I quickly posted it so that I could get feedback and now I realize that I may have the title of the TV series wrong (omg.) Can you tell that this is still a draft? My youngest son is my fav editor--he doesn't criticize everything. I am planning a mystery novel around a condo complex so he liked that this story stood on its own but may fit into what I have already written--has the same 'voice' and ...

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