The Recycling Man

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but its always been a little thin to turn into an entire blog post on its own. I really need to post about it now, though, as I’m about to leave Bandon, and I may never get a chance. Wow. That’s weird. In 2 weeks, I’m leaving Bandon and I won’t ever live here again. I mean, I’ll just be down the road in Kinsale, but… still. Its an ending. And a beginning, of course, but it is an ending. Strange. Sad. All these things.
So, one of the things in Bandon that I’m really going to miss is the recycling man.
Yep. The recycling man.
So, one of my jobs as an au-pair is to ‘do the recycling’. That was a strange concept to me. What was I supposed to do to it? After spending all my life living in cities, it had never occurred to me what happens when you live in the country, and its not financially viable for the local council to send a waste collection to your front door and take away your rubbish for you.
What happens is that you have to pack up all the rubbish and recycling and take it to the recycling centre. You have to pay to go inside (this actually explains to me why there is so much rubbish dumped in the Irish countryside. The temptation to just dump your waste somewhere would be much greater if you not only had to get rid of it yourself, but pay someone for the privilege of removing it. Obviously council rates pay for waste disposal in Australia/Sydney, but because you have to pay your rates, and then the rubbish man comes to your door, its kind of difficult to avoid paying for the waster removal), then you have to pay per bag of rubbish you want to dump. Recycling, however is free. This certainly is an incentive, in that, the more you recycle, the less you pay, so we’re very big on recycling as much as we can. For a household of 4 adults and 2 children, we can get away with only one bag of rubbish every 2 weeks, and recycle the rest. Pretty impressive.
Anyway, so, the job of going to the recycling centre has been mine. The first week I had to do it, I was at a complete loss as to how it worked. There had been no-one to do the recycling for several weeks, and it built up massively. I had many, many bags of unsorted recycling, and had no-idea what to do with it. My host mother told me I needed change to be able to pay to get in, but that was the extent of the information she gave. So, I headed off with 12 bags and went to the recycling centre.
When I got there, I did many laps of the place, uncertain of where to go or what to do. There were many skips and bins of various sizes, colours and shapes, with all sorts of things inside of them. One whole shed for whitegoods. Another for mattresses. One barrel for batteries. Another for used aerosol cans. A skip for plastic containers. A bag for white polysterene, another for coloured. It was either a recycling centre, or a hermit’s prized collection of ‘things-that-may-come-in-handy-one-day’.
I was eventually greeted by a very friendly, very smiley, elderly Asian man. He showed me where the rubbish was supposed to go. When he saw how many bags I had, he asked if it was sorted or not. I had no idea what he meant. He opened the bags and saw that it was all mixed, and then said, ‘Oh, not so good. You separate next time, much cheaper. Much better for you.’ He then showed me all the various containers for the bits and pieces and, despite taking many, many bags of rubbish from me, only charged me for 3 or 4 of them.
So, this was my first encounter with ‘The Recycling Man’. I don’t know his name, but he’s always working, he’s always helpful, and he’s always got the biggest smile around on his face, no matter what the weather, or what the circumstance. I love him. He always brightens my day. He is a shiny example of how a horrible chore can become something far more enjoyable simply because of the people who are involved, or the attitude you have towards it.
In the course of the year, he has done many lovely things for me. He only ever charges me for one bag of rubbish, even if I’ve brought two smaller ones (and I know from the occasional days I’ve had to deal with his colleagues that they charge for every bag, even if its not twice as much rubbish). One windy day, I lost 20 Euro in the centre (the Euro notes, I find, are ridiculously easy to lose, they simply slip out of your pocket or hand and float off. Perhaps that’s contributed to the Eurozone financial troubles… Ooh. Too harsh?) and he helped me look for it. We couldn’t find it, but he said he would check the whole perimeter for me and give it back to me next week if he found it. He was true to his word and gave it back the next Monday. I never could work out if he actually found it, or if he just gave it to me out of his own pocket, because he felt bad that I had lost it. He gave me a ‘Hangman’ computer game, which is just a little game that you can play hangman on. He was playing with it one day and he said to me, ‘Someone just left this! Is perfectly fine! Works perfectly! Here, you can have it. You can give it to your kids. You have kids, yes? You give it to them.’ He was so annoyed that people would be so wasteful as to throw away a perfectly working toy. Then, just yesterday, he asked me if I needed to paint my house. I was confused and said I wasn’t sure. He said if I did, he had a whole pile of tins of paint that someone had given him and he would give them to me for free. I said I’d have to check with my host family, and get back to him. He told me he’d keep it out the back for me, in case I wanted it. Of course, we don’t need to paint the house, and we’d probably buy the paint in the colour we need rather than get freebies, but I kind of want to tell him we do want the paint, just because the gesture was so nice.
I’m planning on writing him a little thank you card, as I notice that in his little hut, where he keeps all the money that he gets for the rubbish, he has a couple of ‘Season’s Greetings’ cards pinned to the wall, and I just kind of want to say thanks for being so friendly and nice all the time. Except for the fact that I don’t know his name. Maybe I’ll just write a message and sign my name and not address it. I should ask his name, but its gotten to the point where its kind of too late and awkward to ask his name. I also like the idea of having such a nice memory of knowing someone, but not knowing their name. I’m such a dreamer sometimes.

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