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.