The Chronicles of Kiwi, Part 14


We wrapped things up in the Northlands and readied ourselves to make way for the coastal city of Tairua, which is a Māori word meaning, “two tides”. Readying ourselves involved dealing with the “rubbish” as they call it here.  It seems to be a common practice of those who rent out their property to place the burden of disposal upon the guests. We were told to place as much as possible, that wasn’t of a recyclable nature, into the official, black, government rubbish bag. That bag would cost $3 to dispose of. The rest we were to sort and recycle. We were given directions to the local transfer station and that was that.

I volunteered  for the task. It was the first time I had actually driven anywhere by myself in a foreign country. It felt good to be doing something so ordinary as making a trip to the town dump. Men are funny that way. We can’t have babies but we can make runs to the dump. It makes us feel useful and needed. Which we are – especially when the rubbish cargo reeks to high heaven.

The aforementioned red snappers, all decapitated and festering away in the official government bag, were “giving me the fin” one last time. Two days of resting in black plastic had angered them up. They were still furious at having been suckered into taking a bite of the squid bait, “Hey kids, look! Calamari! I‘ll just have a nibble and let you know if it’s any good and…YOWZA!”

I found the government run “Rubbish” site without incident. I feigned no pretense that I knew the protocol, I just rolled down the window and yelled, “I’m a tourist! Tell me what to do!”  The old Kiwi pointed and said, “Back up to the hole…”  The hole was a large chute cantilevering over a cliff. The hole was, at that moment, occupied so I backed up next to the hole and parked. I needed more instruction.

The Rubbish Inspector was sitting at a little card table some ways away from the hole. I grabbed the fish head bag, the one I knew I’d be paying for, and headed over to show it to him and to settle up. He said, “That’s 3 dollars then.” I set the bag down and began my dance of stupid by pulling out a handful of change. The Kiwis like their coinage and I’ve not yet figured it out. I just stood there gazing in wonder at the shiny stuff as though it held the meaning of life. He waited a bit, sighed, then reached over with a gnarled hand and fished out the right amount for my dead fish. He nodded in the direction of the hole. I walked over and threw my government issued rubbish in the rubbish hole – a manly heave.

After that, things got complicated. There is recycling, and there is recycling as though Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest is in charge. (See clip here !)  We had quite a lot to recycle. And, there was a bin for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. The kiwi lad began to follow me around to make sure I got it right. Green bottles, brown bottles, clear bottles, milk jugs, juice containers, water bottles, lids for water bottles, cardboard containers for soft drinks, plain cardboard, aluminum foil, etc. All and each different and spaced randomly about the yard. I found it all a bit humiliating – marching back and forth from bin to bin, holding up a piece of this or that for the Solomon-like  judgments of the Rubbish Inspector.  I got it down to a handful of stuff that defied category and he said, “You can throw last bit in the rubbish hole – no charge.”

For good measure, I gave this public servant one more thing to talk about as he would later lift a pint and recount to his mates the story of the idjit Yank. Anxious to leave this wearisome place, I jumped in the car and cheerfully yelled out the window, “Thanks for the help!”  I went to start the car and made no purchase with the ignition.  I looked down and found myself waving at air – no steering wheel. I had gotten in on the wrong side of the car. The Rubbish Inspector just sat there behind his wee card table watching as I got out and went to the other side. No more was said between us. What more could be said? As I sped off and turned into traffic,  I signaled with my windshield wipers and began the last stretch of our stay in paradise.