Thursday, February 3, 2011


IT'S THURSDAY, AND HERE'S YESTERDAY'S CALAMITY DU JOUR: Yes, they seem to be arriving daily. It's disconcerting. It's discouraging. It's downright dismaying. It's daunting, depressing, disheartening and dispiriting. Dinner... on the table. The food is hot and ready to eat. But the yard man knows a sneeze is imminent. He goes into the bathroom and opens the cupboard door, rummages around for a box of tissues. I hear a crashing, shattering sound and hear him exclaim, "Oh,...." (Never mind what he said. I can assure you it wasn't joyful, Reader Dear).

"What happened?! What broke?" I ask from the kitchen, just as he comes into the room and tosses something into the trash can.

"I broke one of those bulbs," he says.

"What?! A compact fluorescent bulb?!" I rush to the bathroom to view the damages. Sure enough, there's a curly disaster--pieces of glass strewn across the floor.

"Just let it go!" I say, and pull the bathroom door shut. "I'll take care of it later. You know, those bulbs have mercury in them!"

We sit down and eat our dinner. Then I try not to think about cleaning up that broken bulb. I don't know what to do with it, but whatever it is, I surely don't feel like doing it now. Because my yard man is so completely unconcerned, however, I am concerned--he's liable to tromp through the mercury and think nothing of it.

I get tape and use it liberally on the bathroom door, ensuring it will be a quicker proposition to go to a bathroom on another floor than to hack one's way into this one. Next I go and relax in the living room, letting the job niggle away at me for a few hours. Finally I go to the computer and google "clean-up of broken fluorescent bulb."

There are a few moments of horrified silence as I'm reading down through the instructions and then I say to the yard man, heart pounding, "Oh, good heavens! You've already polluted the whole place! That bulb broke right at your feet--you've got to take off all your clothes, they're contaminated. Especially your shoes--we have to throw them away! And... and... we're to turn off the heating system and open the bathroom window for a few hours (it was about 20 degrees outside at the time). I'm supposed to put the glass pieces in a glass jar with a lid...wearing gloves and a mask..."

"Oh, good grief, just sweep the stuff up," he harrumphed and trotted off upstairs.


Dear Reader, I tried very diligently not to obsess. I told myself that surely at least ninety-three-point-five percent of the population would NOT meticulously scrape the broken glass together with two pieces of cardboard and discard everything in double-bagged plastic bags in lieu of a glass jar with lid, per instructions! And ninety-five-point-three percent would very probably NOT repeatedly pat wide strips of tape over the scene of the breakage (how many would just happen to have these large rolls of clear packaging tape, perfect for the job, anyway?!) And the half-roll of paper towels, dampened one at a time to clean every crack and crevice where mercury might yet be lurking--how many of those thousands of other bulb-breakers out there would be Doing As Told, like me?

Today, however, found me at the handy, drive-through, drop-off building provided by the local hazardous waste facility. In the trunk of the car were two large double-bagged bags of POLLUTED materials. "What do you have here?" the two men with the bright yellow vests wished to know. From the car ahead of me, they'd unloaded a computer and several big batteries.

"Uhm, it's a broken compact fluorescent bulb," I told them.

"What?! Where's the bulb? What's all this?" the one guy asked, and his tone of voice gave no indication that I'd be receiving an award for my conscientious care of the environment.

"Well, my husband dropped part of the bulb into a bag of trash--so part of it's in this bag here...and then, I used a lot of paper towels..."

With a small snort, he tossed the bags back into my trunk. "Just throw 'em out with your garbage!" he said. "We don't do trash collection here!"

"But I got my instructions online," I protested. "At least won't you take this bag? It's got most of the bulb, and the bathroom rug." Hell's bells, I wanted to yell--Don't make me take this pollution back home!

The worker grabbed the bag. He tossed it to the other yellow-vester, who set off with it toward the piles of waste. "They're gettin' everybody all worked up!" he said, his voice full of disgust. "Ya get more mercury from a hoagie wrapper!"

Say it again?! Now I wanted to give him an award! Whether factual or not, those were just the kind of words I wished to hear!



jut said...

how frustrating!

KTdid said...

how true, jut.
One bulb at a time---are we going to save the environment or destroy it?!