The apartment building where I live is nothing special. It’s in precisely the area I wanted to be, the rent is particularly cheap for Waterloo, and the actual apartment is rather nicer than the building or stairwell. But the building isn’t particularly new or pretty, the stairwell’s a bit beat-up, and it tends to smell odd out there.

Most of the residents have been there a long time. The winners are the folks above me, who have been there approaching 18 years (their son — Upstairs Steve’s — entire life). My brother and I agree that this is mind-boggling. (Though I’m sure to a New Yorker, say, it wouldn’t even merit batting an eyelash.)

Anyway, the mailboxes for the units are crappy. Standard house-style ones with a hinged lid and hooks for a newspaper. But they’re old and have been exposed to the elements for a long time, and are bent and rusty and tend to hang crooked. So that’s bad enough. But the neighbours have some bad habits, which, I think, are ingrained from the aforementioned years of living in the same place — a place that’s just rented, y’know?

The habit that’s really bugged me since I moved in is how junk mail is handled. And holy crap, until I became a primary occupant, I had no idea how bloody much of it there is. (I am going to have to get a new mailbox, I think, before it’s worth bothering sticking on a NO JUNK MAIL notice, since the surface is too rough for anything to hold.)

I don’t know anyone who enjoys junk mail, including the neighbours, so they don’t bother taking it all the way into their apartments to dispose of. They leave it on the porch by the mailboxes. On the top step by the wall, typically, in a pile that rapidly yellows and gets soggy and blows around the lawn and flowerbeds. Lovely. Classes up the place, I tell ya.

I did not contribute to this problem, and, in fact, on a few occasions picked up the nasty pile and pitched it to clear off the step. Except that eventually I started getting used to it, and one day, which was particularly junk mail-heavy, and I was crabby, I dropped my unwanted crap onto the pile, too. And then I felt like a complete asshole, and took the whole wad into my apartment and sorted it into garbage and recycling. And I had an idea.

The next time I was at Canadian Tire, I checked out their recycling bins to see if they had what I wanted — something big enough to hold a week’s junk mail for all the units, but small enough not to block the porch. Voila, found just the thing. $4.99. Sold.

Took it home, put it on the porch, and tossed that day’s junk mail into it for “priming” purposes. Upstairs Steve’s mom (She Who Smokes) saw me, and said that it was a great idea, and agreed that the junk mail on the steps sucked.

And lo and behold, the next day when I got home from work, the bin was a third full — everyone took the hint and, when they came up front to get their mail, sorted it on the spot. All the junkmail went right into the recycling bin. AND, every week since, someone else has taken it out to the curb before I got around to taking my own recycling out.

Yay for the little things. 🙂 (And I may still pick up a pot of red mums for the porch. I do so like them.)

(And yes, I am aware of the entertaining juxtaposition of the eloquence and magnitude of Gandhi’s quote, which I used in the title, and the banality of my story. Heh.)

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