I have committed what is considered a serious crime in New York City, these days. I didn't rob anyone, I didn't kill anyone, nor did I expose myself to unwitting passer's-by (although maybe I should, since all the streakers with that Occupy Wall Street bullshit seem to be having so much fun). No, all I did was...throw out some trash.
You can’t sell a second-hand bed in New York City. This is all well-and-good, because second-hand mattresses are nasty, and let’s not get started on the whole issue of bedbugs and other people's bodily fluids (or sometimes solids). So, since I can’t take it with me, and I can’t sell the thing, and its seen better days, anyway, I might as well just toss it out, right? You can still do that, can’t you?
Of course you can. But not until you jump through the Sanitation Department’s hoops, and spend some dough.
I made the cardinal mistake of believing that you could just throw a bed away and have it picked up. I've lived in this city for 43 of my 44 years, born and raised here, and no one ever said you couldn't just chuck an old bed out. People do it all the time. I have been operating under this impression pretty much my entire life, and have seen literally hundreds of old beds similarly discarded and awaiting pickup during that entire span of years, no questions asked, no problems apparent.
Except that this is Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Yorkistan, and things are always different, and the easy must be made impossible. Common sense no longer reigns, The Old Way of Doing Things must be revamped, primarily for the sake of making certain you can snag and fine (mostly fine, it's how New York City pays for condos for the homeless, and free education for illegal aliens, and clean syringes for heroin addicts, etc.) some poor, dumb bastard for making the mistake of doing something that hardly anyone knows is illegal, and which seems natural.
See, I tossed that old bed out on the curb two days ago. The garbage men arrived early this morning...and left it right where it was. Sometime after they left, but before I got up, a Sanitation Inspector had come by and thoughtfully left a $100 citation taped to my front door. I couldn’t tell why a) no one picked up the bed, and b) what the fuck was written on the citation, because whoever wrote it is a functional illiterate with poor penmanship skills. So, I called the Sanitation Department, and made a few enquiries.
It turns out that I had committed a crime in incorrectly disposing of an old bed: according to New York City Sanitation code, you cannot leave a bed out for pickup without first wrapping it in a mattress cover. And not just any old mattress cover, either, but one that is of a type specifically designated by the Sanitation Department. This means either a particular grade of plastic or heavy, rubber-backed canvas, as any sort of regular-type cloth cover is bad juju. You can’t wrap it in heavy sheet plastic, or contrive to cover the thing in a collection of Hefty Bags and Duct Tape, either.
What this means is that I had to go out and buy 2 mattress covers (one for the box spring, and one for the mattress) just so they can be thrown away.
I've just spent $20 for the privilege of having my trash handled by....people who’s job it is to handle the trash. Even worse, it has been raining for the better part of two days, and this meant struggling with a heavy, wet mattress, covered in fallen leaves and street dirt, trying to jam it into a mattress cover, and getting heavy packing tape to stick to wet fabric. And if this tale of woe has filled you with a sense of sympathy for my plight, don't reach for the Kleenex quite yet, because the next little factoid should make you cringe with horror.
Now that the Sanitation Gestapo is aware of the fact that I have been fined for attempting to throw away an uncovered mattress, they will continue to come by several times to ensure that I make every effort to comply with this rather ridiculous regulation. Each visit in which the mattress remains uncovered will result in a new $100 citation. Not only that, if I did put the thing in the approved cover, it will then be inspected for all the petty little details they told me about on the phone: the covers have to be taped or tied down, you can't block a parking space with the old bed, and they have to be propped up into a standing position because God forbid a Sanitman has to bend down. That's eight months on disability and a Workman's Comp case, you see. They will inspect the mattress cover to ensure that it meets regs, and then -- if I pass inspection -- they'll let the next, scheduled crew know to be on the lookout for a mattress which will require that both men get their fat, unionized behinds out of the truck in order to pick the thing up and manhandle it.
The Sanitation Department says that they require what amounts to an airtight mattress condom in order to protect the health and safety of its workers. Umm….they DO realize these guys pick up messy, dripping, smelly, disgusting garbage, sometimes with insects and maggots in it, and they do it all day, don’t they? That doesn’t sound like the healthiest occupation to me to begin with, and it makes me wonder why anyone would choose to do it. Oh, right: for the $60,000 a year a New York City Sanitation man makes (and this provided he can pass a 3rd-grade reading test and provide a clean urine sample, and manage not to get fired within 5 years. Just how stupid would you have to be in order to fuck up garbage collection?).
And that comes with iron-clad benefits that stop just short of lifetime Secret Service protection after you’ve done your time, too.
I swear, New York City has the most mollycoddled, crybaby, overpaid, and underworked municipal workers on Earth. I should have known this was going to be like pulling teeth because of my last encounter with the New York City Sanitation Department, when I committed the executable offense of throwing a Cheerios box in the trash back in 2003.
It’s a toss up as to which is worse: the Obama Administration, or the Reign of Terror of Nitpicking Stupidity that has been the hallmark of Emperor Michael Bloomberg the First’s Tyranny of Nonsense.