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Column: The curious case of the phantom dumper

Sometimes, the little things in life can make someone happy.

After living without trash service for four and a half years, I was delighted to finally have a can that would be picked up once a week. Going to a sanitation site several times a week was never fun, and I would have much rather just wheeled out a can.

When we got everything moved into the house, we discovered we had two wheelable cans, which was ideal after the torture of unpacking, but I figured outside of Christmas, there might not be an occasion when we would need to use the two of them.

My past experiences with trash service are that no matter how long I lived there, I would always forget to put the can out the night before and would often have to go scrambling out the door in the morning when I heard trash being picked up. There were also plenty of times I would sit in my office and realize I had not put the trash can out, and I could do nothing about it.

I have been wheeling the can out the night before service to prevent missing out on trash day. The first time I did this, we had two full cans after the move, and I wheeled them out. I was happy I did not forget when I probably had the most trash I would generate in a year.

When it was time to take out the trash the following week, I wheeled out the “main” can and, on my way back, checked to see if there was anything in the “spare” receptacle. There were a couple of bags, but I did not overthink about it. I figured Melissa and Shayla weren’t sure what we were using.

The next week, I rechecked both; one can was pretty full, and the other had a single bag. While in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal to move a bag or two into another can or wheel out two, I figured using one would not be that hard.

I asked Melissa and Shayla to use the can closest to the house for trash, and they both claimed they had not been using the extra can. In fact, they were both pretty persistent. They had only been using the one we had decided upon. The more I started to think about it, the more I realized that some of the bags in the other can were white, and we had only purchased black ones.

The following week while I was in Helena picking up the newspaper, Melissa pulled the trash can to the curb and found that the secondary can once again have bags in it, but this time there was an added surprise of dog poop.

So, we have ended up with a community trash can. Perhaps there is someone who spreads out trash throughout the neighborhood cans. Or maybe it’s just a welcome present for moving in. Perhaps I should have opened the bags, and I would have had a pleasant surprise.

While it’s a little bit weird to think of what could be in the bags people place in our trash can, I will still move them. Dog poop is another story. We have a phantom “dumper” who is now literally putting dumps into our can. I can’t imagine what the can would have smelled like if it was in the middle of July.

I’m thinking of maybe putting the secondary can into the shed , but it sounds more fun to keep an eye out my bedroom window to see who might be using our house as their own personal trash service.

As inconvenient as not having trash service, putting bags in someone else’s can never crossed my mind. I’m unsure if this is normal, but I will start paying attention when I hear someone outside. I’m not sure what I would even say if I caught someone throwing poop into my trash. I’m sure it would be a very strange yet entertaining conversation. I’d probably tell them it’s not polite to use other people’s things, but if they use our service, put trash in the one closest to the house and a black bag. I would probably never know it was being used unless they went crazy with the dumping.

I’ll be keeping an eye out until the next trash day and hopefully can solve the case of the phantom “dumper.”

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