I left school early today to run errands. Since one was an errand for the school and since the electricity was out so I couldn’t do what I was supposed to be doing I felt no guilt. Besides the whole school was getting out in 30 minutes.
I went to the bank to pay my internet bill, went to the phone company to pay my phone bill and then went to the stationary store to get some supplies for the school. One of the things was anti-virus software which they were sending from Apia, but they forgot it. Ah, well. Next week, a return visit.
I wanted to do something different and fun. I’m pretty bored with the daily routine. I decided to go to the wholesale store and buy six cans of chili beans. What an adventure! Unfortunately, when I got there they had no beans. I asked if they would be getting any. “They are out of stock.” “Yes. Will you be getting more later?” “They are out of stock in Apia, too.” “Yes, I understand. Will they get more sometime?” “They are out of stock.”
Golly, that was fun.
Luckily, the wholesale store (if you are thinking it resembles Sam’s or Costco you are dead wrong, by the way. Think more of a 7-11 that sells in bulk.) is next to Uncle Bill’s. Or Burger Bill’s since I think they’ve changed the name but not the sign. It doesn’t matter except to show that I’m so bored I write about this kind of minutia, which anybody reading can’t possibly be interested in.
Anyway, I’m tired of chicken. Tinned mackerel and egg salad sandwiches have also been on the menu too often lately, since the parents have been bringing food to us at school. I figured I’d treat myself to fish and chips for dinner, along with a smoothie, which is one of my favorite things on the island. Cold, fruity and icy. Miracle of miracle, they had both the fish and the smoothie!
Multiple times I’ve walked away from Uncle/Burger Bill’s empty handed. Because they had no burgers, no fish, no chips and no smoothies. Just chicken.
By the way, since I’ve already taken us down the useless details path and you’ve followed gamely along, here’s a question. Why is there an apostrophe in Bill’s? Because it’s Uncle/Burger Bill’s restaurant? And who is Bill anyway? Because the photo on the sign is Uncle Sam.
Ok, back to the story. I strolled out to the road and was enjoying my smoothie while waiting for the bus. You’re allowed to stand outside and eat or drink, you’re just not allowed to walk while eating or drinking.
A kid was also waiting for the bus and we chatted a bit.
I finished my smoothie and walked a few feet to the new plastic garbage can next to the gate leading to the parking lot for both burgers and wholesale shopping.
I was thinking how nice it was that they’d put it there, since littering is a common problem.
I unattached the lid, further impressed that they’d spend the money for an upscale garbage can. I tossed in my empty cup, lid and straw still in place. After it left my hand, I glanced into the garbage as I was reattaching the lid.
Uh oh. There was a backpack in there. And something else that I didn’t recognize with my quick glance, but it did not appear to be garbage.
As I was walking back to the road, pondering situation, I realized that someone had probably purchased the garbage can, put the stuff they were carrying into and left it there while they ran into the store or restaurant. Now they’ll find my empty cup inside.
I considered going back and taking my cup out, but what if it really was garbage? The backpack or bag or whatever was worn and ripped. Someone could have thrown it away. Did I really want to start rummaging in Samoan trash? And let’s say I did. And it wasn’t trash, but a newly purchased garbage can being used for storage. And the owner came back to wait for the bus and found me rummaging through his stuff. That would be awkward.
I opted to leave it in and walk away to wait elsewhere for the bus. I’m a chicken. What would you have done? Really, what is the protocol here?
Sadly, this is not the first time I have (or may have, in this case) had a major uh oh with a garbage can.
I was having lunch at an outdoor café in Istanbul one day (which was much more exotic than Burger Bill’s, by the way) when I felt the call of nature. I was directed to a public restroom nearby. My first mistake was trying to walk into the men’s side. I was politely directed to the correct door.
Inside the ladies room I used the squatty potty.
I found out what Turkish women wear under their burkas – beautiful, modern pants suits, perfect makeup and lots of jewelry. After I’d finished my business, I blew my nose and through the Kleenex into the large, covered, blue plastic garbage can. I lifted the lid with one hand and tossed the tissue with the other. And observed what I’d just done with horror.
The garbage can was not a garbage can at all but a huge container of water. I was supposed to have used the small blue plastic cup in the stall to fill with water and then flush the squatty potty.
As I realized what I’d done and was having a furious mental debate about reaching in for the sinking, sodden tissue, the elegantly dressed women were putting their burkas back on gazed at me, shocked at what I’d done.
I didn’t dip my hand in. I just gave an apologetic shrug and walked away.
I’m never touching an unfamiliar covered garbage can again.
Update: I never did see anyone come back. It may really have just been a trash can. International incident averted.