I bet I'm one of the lucky people arriving in Charlotte to have gotten a personal and warm welcome from the Mayor's office. Of course how it came to that point is a story in itself and would not have been possible without the assistance of my dear neighbor, Ms Southern Hospitality.
One of the key things to learn when arriving in a new town is how garbage disposal and pick up works. Every city does recycling differently, on different days, with different materials and bins etc. Let me first off, pay the city of Charlotte a big compliment for its efficiency; when they say something will happen, it does. When people complain about government services, they listen.
During the first week here, we did a lot of unpacking in a short period of time and it seemed as if we were never going to unpack the sky-high pile of boxes sprawled across our house. As the stack of empties got higher and higher, my anxiety about the amount of work we were creating for the garbage men rose higher and higher too. Back in Canada we had made friends with the garbage guys, offering them sodas on the road, tips at Christmas, help in loading up the truck...I swear by the time we left we could have put a dead body out on the curb and they would have thrown it on the truck without batting an eye...
Here in Charlotte it doesn't quite work that way. First of all, any boxes that don't fit in the bin are considered bulk and require special order pick up. Secondly, all boxes must be piled in single form, measuring a precise 3x3 foot area. Of course we weren't aware of the new policy and quite frankly were arrogant enough to figure we'd just butter up the new crew like we'd done before and all would be well. Garbage duty has generally been up to my husband, with the occasional pinch hit by myself on the rare occasions he's on the road. Not surprising, our first week here he had to dash out of town, leaving me to deal with the box debacle.
The first time the garbage truck passed by without picking up the boxes was puzzling until Ms Southern Hospitality clued me in to the 3x3 requirement. So I spent over two hours that night out front, cutting, breaking, bending, and re-stacking those high end, heavy duty boxes we bought from the reputable moving company in Canada. These weren't your scraggly leftovers from the liquor store. I saw all those colorful Canadian dollars go up in flame with every tear in every box...
After much huffing and puffing I got the job, a small sense of smug pride on my face as I thanked my neighbor for her direction. She was kind enough to find me an old phone book and stack all the packing paper in her and other neighbors' bins who had the extra room too. Her willingness to offer directions, tips on where to shop for the best produce and where to get a good haircut at a decent price went above and beyond the call of neighborly duty and I felt immediately welcomed. Just to ensure that this new pile would make its way into the truck however, I left a couple of sodas and a thank you note on top of the 3x3-ish stack. They just had to take them now!
The next morning I awoke to find my stack still there; my heart sank. What the heck was I going to do? Get a measuring tape and a paper shredder? I decided I'd wait for my husband to get home and we'd discuss our options which so far included midnight runs to the dump and paying the guy with the red truck on the next street over to come and rescue/dispose of them himself. That night over dinner we decided we would slowly take a smaller pile to school with the kids each day and throw them in the "cardboard waste" bin there. Sneaky sure, but problem solved.
Indeed. Seems Ms Southern Hospitality is hooked up with some city officials and got on the horn on behalf of her clueless neighbors. She "gave them what-for" as she put it and explained that we were foreigners who were unaware of garbage policy in Charlotte and how she personally witnessed hours of back-breaking labor on my part, trying to make it right and what kinda welcome was this?
That very next day the pile disappeared. No word, no note (no sodas either). I saw Ms Southern Hospitality out front that evening and she told me the Mayor sent her an email, apologizing to us and offering a personal welcome to the queen city. Talk about neighborly love!
Well, most of the neighbors anyhow. Our landlord (and neighbor) showed up later that week with a citation from another disgruntled neighbor who had taken a picture of our boxes and sent them to the city along with a nuisance complaint. We of course explained how the matter had already been taken up with the city and how the Mayor had sent us a personal welcome. I wonder where he lives?