We got trouble right here in Rideau City, trouble that starts with “T” that rhymes with “G” that stands for garbage and finally “P” that stands for papers*, as in newspapers responsible for a terrifying outbreak of sociopathic activity undermining the very moral fabric of this proudly anal-retentive capital.
The breeding ground, once again, for this latest signal of the looming End of Times is the public transit system, which we all know attracts a certain class of Ottawan known, collectively, as the public. This includes roving gangs of civil servants, great gaggles of dozing university students and just about the entire NDP caucus whose MPs are still too young to drive the Porsches they’ll soon be buying on their $160,000 salaries.
When the members of the Great Unwashed started their commute last week by checking the front page of the local rag, they must have been shocked to see the screaming headline “Inspectors find garbage on one in three Transpo buses.”
Turns out that in 3,600 spot cheques, snoopy “mystery shoppers” hired by the city found a pissload of yuck on our mobile pod farms, including “large” amounts of garbage in 42 instances … over the last two years.
Just imagine—that’s an incredible average of 21 really dirty buses among the thousands of vehicles in the fleet that covered millions of miles carrying millions of passengers in that 24-month period.
Now, before you recoil in horror and resolve to move to some more pristine city, like maybe Detroit or Port au Prince, a dose of perspective might be in order.
When I saw the word “garbage”, I had to resort to ancient memory to get a mental picture of rotting banana peels, chicken bones and discarded pizza crusts. That’s because it’s hard to find old-style garbage in Ottawa where we recycle everything in a confusing rainbow array of coloured boxes. Plastics are shipped off to some village in India where the locals appreciate it as a welcome break in their regular diet of asbestos we also send them. Used cat litter ends up being composted into fertilizer mulch to avoid the middleman in the annual battle between gardeners and their neighbours’ felines. Sensitive documents are gathered up and sent directly to the Daily Mirror in England so that its journalists won’t have to get their hands dirty, at least not literally.
Ah, but there still remains one problem. You see, our black-box newspapers are recycled into newsprint right here at home and become new newspapers. Now, some people see this as a good thing because it saves untold millions of trees, vast amounts of energy and makes room in landfills for mountains of trash we don’t send there anymore.
Therein lies the rub. It turns out that Ottawans have been taking these newspapers onto the buses and, like all Canadians genetically bred to be over-concerned about their fellow citizens, leave them behind to be read by others after they descend at their destination.
As a bus rider, I can assure you that my day is made if I find a treasure on my seat like a copy of the Globe with the Sudoku puzzle still undone. But one man’s treasure…
Yup, those newspapers are the “garbage” the city is talking about, allowing municipal boffins to make today’s news by citing today’s news as “the main source of litter.”
The solution is simple—the city will require the newspaper distributors to board the buses at regular intervals to remove the newspapers so that riders won’t inadvertently stumble upon them and read them, which, dangerously, may lead to the chaos of a better-informed populace.
It will also lead to other things. For a start, those dozing college students will lose their last serendipitous chance to learn to read before they graduate and head out to not find jobs. Newspapers, already struggling to find readers (and editors) who know at least 50 percent of alphabet, will continue on an accelerated decline to their predicted demise in 2040 (even earlier for the Mayan Daily Record and Chronicle). The city will quickly be able to claim victory in its drive to clean up the bus fleet, but no one in the press will report it because they’re too busy trying to figure out how to wrap fish in Kindles and line the bottom of the parrot cage with iPads.
With months still to go on the Big Brother spy contract, municipal mandarins will have to find someplace else to send the “mystery shopper” private dicks. So prepare yourselves a few weeks from now to see the first Tweet from City Hall. “OMG! LARGE amounts of garbage found on miles of shelves in ALL local libraries. Authors must remove their litter!” If any of you know where to find guys like Shakespeare, Churchill and Stephen King, tell them to start making plans to get down to the main branch. They should bring brooms, shredders and eight million blue boxes.
Mind you, I’m not sure how we’ll recycle this stuff what with no demand from newspapers or print publishers and all.
Oh hell—let’s just label the containers “asbestos” and send our whole litter problem to India.