Sherman Says: You have to like the Brits, right down to their wheelie bins
Sure, there was the living, breathing timeline depicting the ascent of the British people from simple, agrarian times through the oppressive industrial revolution. Real sod was rolled up like carpeting and replaced with massive gears and working smokestacks.
It was the sound track of the ceremony that brought the tale-up-to-date, using the music of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, The Who and David Bowie. James Bond dropped into Buckingham Palace in a clever video piece and Mr. Bean graced the keyboard.
If the local Olympic committee members really wanted to serve up a sample of British culture, they had to look no further than how trash is collected. Enter the green garbage tote or, as the Brits call them, “wheelie bins.”
Most Buffalo area residences are supplied with a 65-gallon tote with a hinged lid, designed to keep garage in and vermin out. They are at the top of the size chart in such historic locales as Oxford, which also offers two smaller bins.
Each wheelie bin in Oxford is outfitted with a microchip, a fact that has made some residents nervous that their trash may be searched or otherwise scrutinized by the government.
“We can track lost bins, as each has a serial number relating to the property it was delivered to,” said the Oxford website. “In the future, we will be able to deal with customer enquiries better, by having live information fed from the trucks to the call centre; for instance, why a bin hasn’t been collected or where the crews are on the rounds. No personal data is held on the chips, only address data.”
Maybe the late British author George Orwell should have had a place in the ceremony. After all, it was his novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” that addressed the issue of a futuristic state that controls every aspect of citizens’ lives. In Oxford, “Big Brother” has even his hands in your trash.
British government officials worried about residents’ putting their wheelie bins out too early or in such a way that interferes with walkers.
“We do not expect residents who live in properties with no front garden to use wheelie bins and do not deliver bins to them. These residents will instead get branded sacks. We expect residents to take all reasonable steps to avoid a nuisance or a danger from obstructing the footway. Although we will try to persuade people to put their bin out on the day of collection only, we do have powers to take action against those who place waste out too early or who leave containers out too long, and we employ enforcement staff for this purpose,” said the Oxford website.
To counteract the ugliness of the heavy plastic bins, many companies sell stock or customized stickers to decorate their wheelie bins.
One such firm, Bright Star Kids, had the following review posted on its website: “I bought these because I wanted something tidy that still differentiated our bins from our neighbors. I found them a little fiddly to get on without any air bubbles, but two years later and they’re still on without peeling.”
Webster’s defines “fiddly” as “requiring an annoying amount of close attention.” We Americans might say “a pain.” I’m not sure what David Bowie would say.
David F. Sherman is the managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and is a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.