What constitutes a thoughtful birthday gift is truly in the eye of the beholder.
It will not surprise you to learn that in our household we are pretty passionate about recycling. The fact that we have pay-as-you-throw in our town is part of it, but mostly we just enjoy the challenge of seeing exactly how much we can pile in the recycling bin versus the trashcan (though trying to avoid either if at all possible). My wife and I get a deep sense of satisfaction on Sunday nights when we deposit one small, unassuming trash bag at the end of our driveway, right next to overflowing bins of recyclables and large paper bags of yard waste (which goes to a nearby commercial composting facility). It's an enthusiasm we plan to impart to our infant sons when they get older. (For more on the behavioral psychology of recycling, be sure to check out Bryan Staley's Waste Wise column, "Want Not, Waste Lots.")
But those overflowing 18-gallon bins always irked me. They were small and open, allowing paper and cardboard to turn to mush in the rain (rendering them useless), and frequently spilling their contents all over the curb. Plus they simply weren't big enough to hold all the recyclables our household was generating most weeks.
Our local sanitation department offers the option of a 95-gallon recycling cart for a one-time fee of $65. It was something I'd mulled for years. But I could never quite pull the trigger. It seemed extravagant, even hubristic. Who did my recyclables think they were? But mostly I just kept forgetting to call.
My wife sensed my internal struggle (and my lethargy), and with my birthday imminent, took action. So when the fated day arrived early this month, she led me around the side of the house to surprise me with that big, blue beauty. All that space! A lid! Wheels! And there on the side, a proud statement: "We Recycle!" It was almost too much to ask for.
Now my recyclables cruise to the curb in style. No longer will my flattened cardboard sprawl unseemly on the lawn. No more stray soda cans in the gutter. And now I can eat all the Lucky Charms I like without the neighbors snickering when they see the empty box poking, like a shameful flag, out of those (now retired) bins.
I'm thinking about having flames embossed on the thing.
As always, I am eager to hear from you. E-mail me at email@example.com.