Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Some Things Just Bug You, a Civic Soapbox Essay by Kim Johnson

Take the townhouses at the end of my street, for example: They bug me. Over the past nine years that we have lived in our house, the townhouses nearby have wilted a bit, a missing shutter here, an overgrown shrub there. I’m not fancy, but I do fancy a neat street, and these townhouses are not passing muster anymore.

But what really bugs me is some of the townhouse residents’ lack of regard for the bulk trash pickup policy. The good city of Harrisonburg picks up bulk trash in our neighborhood on the second Wednesday of each month. I appreciate this service, and I have merrily set out junk in the past on the second Tuesday of the month to be whisked away the following day. I find this therapeutic. Some of the occupants of the townhouses, however, throw bulk items to the curb whenever the spirit moves them, and the spirit does not recognize the 2nd Wednesday of the month policy. On many a morning as I drive to work, even, on occasion, the day AFTER bulk trash day, I go by the townhouses and see a Lazy-Boy carcass or a wounded sofa, spilling its stuffing, at the curb. Then I must look at these offending objects until the next bulk trash day, while thinking dark thoughts about my house value hemorrhaging further than it already has in this wretched market.

This bugs me.

So, I’m driving home recently after a very long day, and I that see a big, ugly mattress has appeared on the curb. A mattress! I seethe as I drive by, and continue to seethe daily as I pass it, calculating the days until the next second Wednesday. On a beautiful afternoon, though, when the scarlet tulips and yellow daffodils are waving, I see that a group of children has gathered at the mattress. They shout. They giggle. They jump. Boy, do they jump, leaping, stretching, and reaching for the turquoise April sky. I can imagine the games they are playing amid the scent of the new grass: King of the mattress! Mattress Olympics! I remember a 6 year old me, and how she would have thought a mattress at the curb was the greatest thing ever. You could have a mattress club!

A mattress club: How cool is that?

What I saw as a sign of the imminent decline of civilization, they see as a gift from on high. Amazing.
Perspective is a lens that changes us, not our surroundings. Sometimes… often, in fact, perspective is the only aspect of our life that we do control in this bewildering world. Now, I still like order and I still prefer that people on our street follow the bulk trash policy; however, a group of joyous kids showed me that sometimes a mattress at the curb can be a thing of beauty that is a joy forever…or at least until the next bulk trash day.

And maybe, just maybe, I need to chill out a bit.
Kim Johnson puts her trash out in Harrisonburg.


  1. I loved this essay. It gave me an attitude adjustment that I needed.