Ten years ago, we took frequent weekend trips out of Auckland. Before our daughter was at school and with jobs that offered a degree of flexibility as far as location was concerned, we took advantage of being comparatively footloose and fancy-free - and would usually make a long weekend of it. But now the joint demands of school and weekend sport have consigned those extended weekends to distant memory.
However, in January we needed to spend a Friday night in Whangarei ahead of an early start at an equestrian event the following day. And so, on that Friday morning all the decade-old angst about council rubbish collections came flooding back to me.
We put our overflowing green wheelie-bin out on the street the night before and hoped that the rubbish would be collected before we left in the morning. (Why, I wondered, had I chosen this week of all weeks to persuade my daughter to clear out the storage boxes in her bedroom?)
But by 8am it wasn't looking good and I remembered back to when we missed most rubbish collections simply because we weren't there.
(Leaving bins outside a house for two or three days is a security issue and we consider neighbours to be people with whom to share an occasional Christmas drink rather than people who are conveniently located to perform odd-jobs on our behalf.)
Because our bin was seldom emptied, the days we did spend in Auckland were days during which we became expert at plotting ways to minimise our household rubbish. Leaving packaging behind at the supermarket, dining out every night and dumping household waste in street-side bins were solutions we toyed with.
It became something of an obsession. Why was our rubbish collected on a Friday? A Tuesday or a Thursday would be fantastic. I had postcode envy one Tuesday morning when I drove through a neighbourhood I'd not visited before and saw the streets lined with wheelie-bins. Those lucky, lucky people probably didn't even realise how blessed they were. I'd have crawled over broken glass for a Tuesday pickup.
We dared not even dream of a Wednesday pickup. Full of possibilities, that was surely the holy grail of rubbish collection days. I became bitter about our designated day. The suburbs that were allocated Friday (or its equally inconvenient relation, Monday) were being penalised. I sensed a conspiracy.
I imagined the goings-on at the (imaginary) Headquarters of Rubbish Day Allocations. The head honcho would, of course, have made sure his (or her) suburb had a Wednesday collection. Then his (or her) underlings would have snaffled Tuesday and Thursday, leaving the rest of us to suffer with the days that bracketed the weekend.
It simply wasn't fair. Something needed to change. Suburbs should be able to bid at auction for the most desirable days. Or perhaps a lottery could be held. Or maybe each suburb could put forward a candidate who would fight to the death to gain the privilege of a Wednesday collection for his (or her) suburb.
My wild imaginings continued until 8.47am when they were interrupted by sweet, sweet sounds: the low rumble of a truck engine, the screech of brakes and the dull clunk of a plastic wheelie-bin. "Guys, the rubbish truck's here," I yelled downstairs with a ridiculous level of enthusiasm.
With the rubbish gone and the bin neatly stowed away, my sense of perspective was restored. Perhaps a fight to the death is a tad dramatic but an overhaul of collection days is long overdue. It would surely make sense to annually rotate days of collection so the inconvenience is shared out rather than borne by the usual suspects. Even changing them every ten years would be a step in the right direction.
What's your rubbish collection day? Does it suit your routines? Should rubbish collection days be rotated annually?