As the Garbage Can Turns, a Drama in Several Scenes

Opening Scene:  

A middle-aged man in frayed purple robe stumbles toward his much-needed coffee.  He is tired from a long night, needing caffeine to push his energy level towards acceptable.  He has a horrid case of bed hair and  a  hard time looking above the floor.

Its near 6am and the sunlight is just starting to invade the dark house.  A noise catches his attention as he emerges from the long hall.  He detours from the coffee to see which truck is stopping to pick up from the cans he put out 6 hours before.  But he sees no truck.  Confused, he reroutes to the coffee.  Something is wrong, but he’s not sure what.

As he pours his coffee, a message from the sponsor, Peet’s Coffee, is displayed subtly.  He looks over his coffee.  It is dark, black and rich.  The camera studies it, making sure the audience knows it is from Peet’s.  It is not Folgers.  Taking the first sip, a smile can almost be seen taking shape on his face.  Almost.  On the second sip, there is a spark of intelligence in his eyes.  He walks back to the front window to look out at the street.  An white obelisk can be seen taking shape where the coffee pot had been.

Looking through the sheers that pretend to obscure the view of passer bys, the obvious hits his waking brain cells. “My Garbage Cans are not there.  THEY ARE GONE!”

End  Scene 1

Scene 2:

Our hero stands on his doorstep, in wonder.  A typical SUV, white, approaches.  The soccer mom driving it shields her kids from the fright on the stoop.  It appears that she is pushing down the gas pedal to avoid some unseen demon chasing her down the street. He takes another sip of his coffee.  To his right he sees his neighbors cans.  The neighbor always puts them on his property, not that it is a big deal.  Maybe they are his.  The sun is just starting to warm the day.  He walks across the dry grass to the cans he sees.  They aren’t cans; they are really large containers that he calls cans. When he was a child they were cans and difficult to take to the street.  These have wheels.  If they had been wheeled in the 70’s he would have never complained about taking the cans out and in.  Or in and out, but that topic is for another day he thinks.

He walks over to the neighbor’s containers.  He looks at them while he sips his coffee.  Coffee is like a cigarette in many ways.  A hard habit to break.  Something to keep his hand busy.  Back to the purpose at hand.   The address scrawled on the front is similar to his, but not his.  These are not the cans he is looking for.  Looking down the street he sees lots of cans, but there does not seem to be any duplicates in front of the houses he sees.  There is no sidewalk, so he wanders back across the lawn to the doorstep and walks back in.  Looking perplexed, he closes the door.

End Scene 2

Scene 3:

He stands  in the foyer.  Looking in the mirror he realizes he looks like shit.  Setting down his coffee, he tightens his robe, thankful he’s not on a Megan’s Law website.  Picking up his coffee he calls down the hall.

“The Garbage Cans are gone.”


“Gone. Stolen. Adios.”

“Did you take them out last night?”

“You saw me  do it.”

“oh.”  Pause   “Are they in the driveway?”

“No. And not within 50 yards of the house.  Nothing in front of the church either.”

“You should call the police on the non-911 number.”

He shrugs.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  Time for more coffee he thinks and wanders back to the coffee pot.

End Scene 3

Scene 4:

He sits in front of a computer.  The city police department website is up.  The camera shows how ridiculous it is.  It has lists of reasons why and why not to call 911.  But there is not a “non-emergency” number to call.  Except for community service.  “Do garbage cans that wander away fall under community service,” he wonders.

A screen appears above his head to the right, like thought balloon in a comic strip or book.  Little Nemo and King Morpheus appear for 2 seconds and blink out.

Music plays, with a very short violent cut in:

I can walk down the street, there’s no one there
Though the pavements are one huge crowd. 
I can drive down the road; my eyes don’t see, 
Though my mind wants to cry out loud, 
Though my mind wants to cry out loud. 
Dance floor is like the sea, 
Ceiling is the sky. 
You’re the sun and as you shine on me,
I feel free, I feel free, I feel free.

On the screen a large burly brown refuse container dances down the street with a lithe blue recycling container .  They match the beat and the brown container twirls the blue one then stops and does a Michael Jackson Lean/point in time with the first “cries out loud.”   He continues.

The blue container stops locking and popping in time to opens to the sky and her spread her arms to the suns warmth with the last few lines.

The cans wander down the road, bopping to the rhythm, getting smaller and fading into the distance.

From off stage to the left comes a voice.  “This is ridiculous.  Cartoon garbage cans dancing throws off the noir vibe that is going on. Stupid.”

From the right comes another, more nervous voice. “It’s what the kids want these days. It’s his Wilfred moment. It’s Burroughs. Wait till we bring in the Steely Dan and the bugs in the scene 6.”

“He can dream about being Burroughs all he wants.  This is more Pat the Bunny than Naked Lunch.  Maybe we should shoot for Goodnight Moon.”

There is laughter from both directions

“We both know Noir was a pipedream anyway.”


Our hero  looks up quizzically as the makeshift thought balloon fades away and the voices go back to their hidey holes.

He looks at the website, realizing he’s reporting a theft.  Amazingly enough he found the right page.  Under items stolen, garbage cans are on option.  There are so many fields to fill in.  Clearly some bureaucrat realized that all this information was needed, but no one thought through the user experience.  Each can needed to be described and valued.  $5k seemed like a realistic number.  And the timeline of the event?  separately for each can?  He had no idea exactly when this horrid event happened.  No wonder there was no number to call. No one in the PD wanted to write down or input this information.

He sips his coffee and ponders a new fact.  Not only does this on-line report require his driver’s license, it requires it twice. On separate screens.  Really? it couldn’t auto populate since it already was input?  No wonder people have such low opinion of many government workers.  If industry turned out crap like this, they’d be ridiculed openly.  Wait.  Never mind.

Yelling down the hall semi sarcastically, “Police Report filed.”

“Thank you.”

Fade to blue, like the recycle bin.

End Scene 3

Scene 4

Black fades to gray.  A shape is in the left side of the screen.  It slowly resolves to our hero, though not completely.  If HD is 1080 this is 272 pixels.

Ethereally:   “You are the third caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

Fade in.  The shape has moved left.

“You are the <pause> second <pause> caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

Fade in.  The shape appears to be sitting. He might be drinking coffee.

“You are the <pause> first <pause> caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

A very long pause.

Fade in.  The shape appears to be a huge blog.

“Hi! This Cathy how may I help you?”

Fade to black

Slow fade in.  Our hero is putting the telephone back in its dock.

“Well that was easy.  They are delivering new cans tomorrow.”


Fade to black.

End Scene 4

Scene 5

A silver car approaches our hero’s house.  It pulls into the driveway.  It stops.  The audience can hear the emergency brake being set.  The door opens and our hero emerges.  He’s dressed in casual, but very stylish business attire. It is clear it has been a long day by the wrinkles in his shirt.

He looks out and the camera pans right.    There centered in front of the house in the street is the blue recycling bin.

He stands there astonished.  Only one?  He would have understood two or none. But one?  Why?

In his mind’s eye, or in this case the ridiculous thought balloon screen,  he sees a giant green dumpster.  The dumpster taps on a large box.  His brown refuse bin emerges from the box wrapped in chains, his lid covered in black plastic.  The opening beneath the lid appears to have been shot through with nails.  As it steps out…

From the left, offstage: “And no fucking Tarantino either!”

Roll Credits:

Special thanks to:

Concord California Police Department
Concord Disposal
Nameless Neighbors
Film Students Everywhere


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