Our weekly rubbish collection alternates between glass recycling and paper, plastic and tin can recycling. Once every other week we put our glass into a derisorily small turquoise crate, and the following week we put our paper, our plastic and our cans into a massively large wheelie bin with a yellow lid. The wheelie bin with a yellow lid has enough room in it for the recycling of appropriate rubbish from at least a dozen households like mine. I'm not sure how the council came up with the relative sizes of their containers, but if they based it on any significant statistical studies, it seems plain that I must be an outlier who consumes far too many things that come in glass bottles and not nearly enough things that come wrapped in plastic or cardboard. Perhaps I should drink more Coca Cola (yuck!) and less beer, but I'm not sure I could afford the dental treatment.
The last time we had a wheelie bin with a yellow lid week, I was away from home on business. I spoke to Robin on the phone.
"I've lost the wheelie bin with the yellow lid," she said.
I was astonished. "How can you lose a wheelie bin with a yellow lid?" I asked. "Have you checked underneath the glass recycling bin?"
"The glass recycling bin is much smaller than the wheelie bin with the yellow lid," Robin pointed out. "The wheelie bin with the yellow lid can't possibly be underneath it."
"It would fit underneath the glass recycling bin if it shrank in the rain," I pointed out. "I read in the paper that there had been lots of rain in Wellington."
"I don't think it was the rain that caused the loss of the wheelie bin," said Robin thoughtfully. "Surely the yellow lid would have protected it from the rain? It's far more likely to have been the wind that blew the wheelie bin away."
"Wind?" I asked. "In Wellington? How unusual."
"I know," said Robin. "But the wind was gusting up to 180 kph last night and this morning there was no wheelie bin. No yellow lid either."
"I'm surprised," I said. "Yellow lids are just as well known for their wind resistance as they are for their waterproofing properties. The weather must have been truly astonishingly bad if the wheelie bin with the yellow lid failed to survive it."
"It was," said Robin. "There were reports in the paper of low flying clouds which knocked over power poles and garages. Then, when darkness fell, I noticed that the Moon is now noticeably further away from the Earth than once upon a time it was. We really did have enormously strong winds last night."
"Perhaps you could walk down the road to see if the wheelie bin with the yellow lid has been blown into someone's garden?" I suggested.
"I took a brief investigative walk," said Robin, "though I find the concept of down the road somewhat hard to come to grips with. All the roads in our suburb go upwards, as well you know. There isn't any down anywhere at all that I can find. Sometimes I think that we have far too much geography for our own good."
"That does present some practical difficulties," I admitted. "In most suburbs people take a walk to get fit. In our suburb people get fit so as to be able to take a walk. Did your investigations prove fruitful?"
"All I saw were wheelie bins with red lids," said Robin. "And they are collected by a private contractor who has nothing at all to do with the council collections. Wheelie bins with yellow lids were quite noticeably absent everywhere I looked."
"I'm surprised there were any wheelie bins with red lids left out," I said. "Red lids are notorious for their failure to protect the bins they are attached to from the forces of nature. I read about it in Physics and Biology For the Utterly Brain Dead. The authors posited a clear connection between wheelie bins with red lids and the socks that fail to emerge from the washing machine every week. It seems likely that socks are the larval form of wheelie bins with red lids and that wheelie bins with red lids mature into multi-dimensional, gossamer winged creatures that fly away into the interstices of Hilbert Space when the wind blows from the North. Or when it blows from the South. Yellow lids suffer none of these disadvantages and are therefore much more suitable for wheelie bins."
"That's common knowledge," said Robin. "But nevertheless, there were the wheelie bins with red lids all along the street, just waiting to be emptied."
"Extraordinary," I mused. "I wonder where the wheelie bins with yellow lids went to? Perhaps the strange weather took advantage of a bug in the yellow lid operating system of which we were previously unaware?"
"That must be the case," said Robin. "I'll keep you posted."
We hung up our phones and I spent the remainder of the day and much of the next quite bewildered about the mysteriously disappearing wheelie bin with the yellow lid.
Later that evening, Robin rang me again.
"The wheelie bin with the yellow lid is back," she said.
"Oh, thank goodness," I said. "Tell me what happened."
"A man from up the road returned it. He'd found it in his garden."
"Did he wheel it up to us?" I asked.
"No," said Robin. "He put it in the back of his four wheel drive along with a dozen or so others that he'd collected. He was driving around delivering them to their proper houses."
"Wheelie bins with yellow lids are well known for their gregarious nature," I said, "unlike the more stand-offish wheelie bins with red lids. But having a dozen or more of them gathered together in one person's garden seems a little over the top."
"It was all the fault of the man's children," explained Robin. "They'd baited the garden with a succulent selection of squashed cans, empty shampoo bottles and flattened cardboard boxes. The wheelie bins with yellow lids were quite unable to resist the temptation of a really good free feed, and so they gathered together in his garden for a raucous party."
"Ah, that would explain it," I said. "I hope he imposes a cruel and unusual punishment on his children."
"He caught the wheelie bins dancing widdershins around an empty cardboard box that used to have a cat in it," said Robin. "They were clashing their yellow lids in a punk rock rhythm."
"Sounds like quite a party," I said. "But at least it's back home where it belongs now."
"Indeed," said Robin. "And I think it's quite hung over after its celebrations. It looks quite sorry for itself. Thank goodness we don't have to use it for another couple of weeks. It really does need time to recover from its excesses."
"Self inflicted wound," I said. "I have no sympathy."
"Maybe it's learned its lesson," said Robin. "Perhaps it will be better behaved from now on."
"Let's hope so," I said and I hung up the phone.