Dunkin’ dumpster

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on July 03, 2020 Published on July 03, 2020


Ever since I moved into my apartment in Elsewhere, the single most stable element in the neighbourhood was Dunkin’ Donuts. And now it’s gone! Felled by the coronavirus.

All through the lockdown, there’s been a sign up in the windows saying “YES, WE’RE OPEN!” But it only meant that coffee and doughnuts were available for takeaway. No one was allowed to sit inside. Two weeks ago, I passed in front of the eatery on the way to the local Post Office and — oo! — a new sign was up: “WE’RE CLOSING PERMANENTLY”, followed by the date: June 14.

Bins, of course, was unmoved. “It’s obvious. How can a fast food joint survive when business is slow?” He thought his own joke was hilarious. “It’s not funny!” I said. “What will happen to the garbage?” “Huh?” said Bins, sounding puzzled. “I thought you liked their doughnuts?” It was my turn to sound puzzled. “Yes, I do,” I said, “so what?” He said he thought that’s what I meant by “garbage”.

“No!” I exclaimed, “I’m talking about the dumpster! That’s where we throw our garbage, from my building.” It’s been extremely convenient. Unlike most other residents of this city, we don’t have to drag our garbage bins out to the street, where their contents can be collected by garbage-trucks, after which we must drag them back to our backyard for the rest of the week. Instead, we’ve got the dumpster, a big blue pod, which gets emptied every morning. A cute little truck drives up the parking lot, grabs the pod by its two handles and lifts it up over the driver’s cab, to empty the contents into the rear of the truck.

“Ohhh, you worry too much,” says Bins. “The pod won’t go anywhere.” But he was wrong. Exactly one week later, I was standing in my middle room when I heard the familiar sound of the pod being lifted up. I didn’t pay it any attention because I was used to hearing it. It was only when I went into the kitchen to make my mid-morning coffee that I looked up, out of the window, and saw: NO POD.

“Told you soooo!” I sing out to Bins, when I speak to him next. “The landlord didn’t even know about it!” Indeed, I was the one to call up and tell the upstairs lady, who is a family friend of the landlord, and she told him. “Stop worrying,” says Bins, “it’ll get sorted out. You’ll see.” Annoyingly, he’s right! The landlord calls to say we’d have a dumpster for our own use in two days. Sure enough! Monday morning, there it is. Smaller and more compact, dark green instead of blue, a whole new dumpster.

“What did I say?” says Bins, sounding triumphant. “Now you have to eat your words!” His voice sounds like he’s beaming. “What do they taste like!?” he wants to know. “Salty? Spicy? Full of thorns?” “Oh hush,” I say to him. “I’m just grateful to have a dumpster!”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on July 03, 2020
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