DEAR AMY: We are an older, retired couple living in a townhouse condominium complex. As such we have individual garbage/recycling pick up. We do not generate much garbage or recycling. Our cans rarely fill up more than 50 percent. We have noticed that our garbage and recycling cans frequently get filled up with other residents' garbage/recycling to the point where the lids are up, with garbage bags hanging out over the edge. We do pay for our garbage, and like everyone else in the complex, we buy the smallest can available. Is it old-fashioned to be upset by this? It's not so much the fact that folks are using our cans, although I would prefer the amount in the cans not exceed the ability to close the lid. It's the fact that no one bothers to come by and ask our permission. It just seems rude to use our cans without our permission. I'd be happy to help out, but is it just old-fashioned to want to be asked first?
DEAR PEEVED: Why are you so concerned by being perceived as "old-fashioned"? Have you been successfully conned into believing that your own honest reactions are not acceptable?
Snap out of it! Own your feelings!
You could raise this issue at your next condo board meeting or on the complex's listserv (if it has one). You might find that other residents are experiencing the same annoyance, or you might smoke out a neighbor who is doing this.
Yes, this is annoying. Yes, you have every right to find it annoying, and to wish that people behaved differently.
You and your wife could approach this with a little humor and perhaps inspire people to be more respectful.
Tape a flourescent sign onto the inside of the lid, so that someone opening it would see it:
"Hello, Fellow Humans.
Are you generating so much garbage that you need to use an extra can? That's a pity. Haven't you noticed that the planet is on fire?
We will accept your wasteful overflow, but please be courteous and put the lid securely down. (And leave a tin of home-baked still-warm brownies on top.)
Waste Not, Want Not."
DEAR AMY: I will be retiring from my current job after 20 years. I wanted to give thank-you presents to two co-workers I have known for almost that entire time period. I appreciate their friendship and their dedication to the work our agency does, providing services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Can you suggest an appropriate thank-you gift to them as friends, colleagues and dedicated professionals to the individuals we serve?
Near Future Retiree
DEAR RETIREE: Nothing beats a well-expressed, personal, and sincere note. Your note should include expressions of gratitude, as well as at least one specific noteworthy memory of your time working together.
Along with the note, it is thoughtful to try to match gifts to the personal interests of the recipients. If a colleague is passionate about gardening, you could have a rose or lilac bush sent to their home — or send them a gift card for a nursery. Plants are great gifts because they serve as an ever-growing reminder of the person they are from.
If your colleague does some of his best thinking over a good cup of coffee, a special handmade mug along with some high-grade coffee might make them smile.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for printing the letter from "In a Quandary," who wrote about his wife's (illegal) abortion more than 50 years ago. I am a 72-year-old woman. When my father was about 7 or 8 his father died of influenza during the flu epidemic in 1917. Several years later, his mother also died. This left my father and his two little sisters to be sent to an orphanage. My father was then sent to live with a foster family. After my father died in 1967, my mother shared with me that my dad thought his mother had died from an abortion. This would have been in the early 1920s. The letter from In a Quandary brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for running it in your column.
DEAR GRATEFUL: I appreciate anyone's willingness to share these extremely personal and painful episodes. They enable the rest of us to adopt some important perspective. We humans are graced with the ability to tell our stories, and so we should. Yours brings tears to my eyes.