Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Give Good Garbage

This morning, I heard an unusual amount of noise coming from the garbage containers behind the building. I peered out my kitchen window and saw a strange man methodically pawing through the trash, opening every bag and withdrawing the contents by handfuls. I recognized paperwork and other things I had discarded from our apartment. Most of it went back into the large plastic bins, but certain items he placed in his own bag.

I watched for several minutes, unsure of what I was witnessing. Then I decided to ask him nicely, in Spanish, if necessary, what he was doing. I opened my door and headed for the back stairwell, where I was stopped by a woman who seemed to be dusting doors with a feather duster. She apologized for the "noise" she was making and I said, 'Oh, that's ok," and slunk back into my apartment, embarrassed.

Identity theft is epidemic and it worries me that someone may be targeting us. We are not wealthy. They would not get much, but what they got could make the difference between life and death for us, between living indoors or not. We don't have much of a cushion, and asking relatives or friends for help is out of the question. We wouldn't do it.

Chances are, these people, who clean buildings for a living, are simply trying to supplement their wages with items they can sell. I won't report them to the management company because as janitors, their lives are already very hard. Perhaps they are illegally in this country. I would not jeopardize their existence by getting them fired from their job, which probably includes cleaning all the buildings under the same management, not just this one.

But I will buy a shredder. And perhaps next Wednesday, I'll bake a batch of cookies and discard them in an airtight Tupperware container.


NoRegrets said...

Shredder is very very key.

I might have asked the person what he/she was doing. At least it would make them think, and if they were doing anything bad, think twice about continuing...

Big Momma Pimpalishisness With A Cherry On Top said...

Cookies in a container? Aren't you nice? Maybe I'll come dumpster hunting around your way. :)

thailandchani said...

Shredder is a good idea! That is what I use as well.

I like the idea of the cookies in the container though... Really like it! :)



the walking man said...

1) once you discard something outside it is public property (which is why celeb garbage is always taken right from house to truck)also many white collar crooks have been evidenced into court through their garbage.

2) You're absolutely correct this is a source for ID theft.

3)Don't go cheap on the shredder, if you can afford it get a crossfeed shredder that turns your papers to confetti this can not be taped back together also try to find on that shreds discs you might want to get rid of, only about 1/3-2/3 of the info on them is erased.

4) If you want added security get a metal pail with lid and burn the shredded paper

Better to be anal about this than be Josie who keeps having her PIN stolen.

my old lady doesn't let nothing get past her. she does all of the above.



this info should be worth about 2 dozen cookies or a cake but not a sheet cake Joann would shred it.

liv said...

You're a good woman. I, too, need to get a shredder. I can't be as laissez faire about things as I used to be now that I'm on my own. Thanks for pointing this out.

ps--loved the bear pic. my sister in law was trapped in her office in Aspen last week because a mama bear and two cubs were wandering on the square and animal control was on the prowl. :)

Rachel said...

Kudos on the shredder, DO get it!

And the cookies, aw! I moonlight as a janitor myself--I admit I pilfer discarded items (my last aquistion was a foot heater with fan, nifty!). But a box full of cookies? That would make my day!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

No Regrets,

Besides, shredders are fun, like feeding the animals at the zoo.

Big Momma,

What kind of cookies would you prefer?


I guess it makes sense to have a shredder even if I'm not discarding State secrets. Just in case.


I'm hoping to find a small shredder that won't take up much room.

I agree that all your valuable advice is worth something, but I'll hold off on the sheet cake. We don't want to get icing all over Joann's machinery, do we?


The bear is a lot cuter than the guy who was dumpster diving.


Come on over. For you, I'll just put the cookies on the table, with coffee.

Irrelephant said...

I worked for five years at our local Office Depot, and I can tell you now, our dumpster out back was a GOLD MINE. Long story short, contractual obligations with giant mega-suppliers means returns get tossed in the trash even if they're good at times.

My proudest retail moment? Driving off a grown woman (in her late 50's easily) driving a brand new Chevy Tahoe who was waist-deep in our dumpster. Her big find? A six pack of adding-machine paper rolls.

Liz said...

I have been telling my husband that we need a shredder for awhile. He rips stuff up and then puts half of it in the trash and then waits two weeks to put the other half in. But still though, a shredder would make things much better.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Maybe she got the Tahoe by buying everything else in dumpsters.


Two weeks! That takes more planning than I am capable of. I know there are small shredders that don't take up much space, and I plan to check them out.

Snoskred said...

I completely believe in a shredder - at the same time I never throw out all my shreddings in one go - I divide it into four and put one small lot into each lot of recycling. Just in case someone bothers to take the time to try and put it back together.

No, I'm not paranoid at all... ;)


Anonymous said...

When my office finally got a particular records search, we tried it out with the bosses SS#. Turns out someone in FLA was using his identity. He had no idea. We all checked ours and so far so good. But, once it's stolen (your identity) its hard to get it back.

And aren't you just the nicest lady making cookies!!

Voyager said...

Yes, yes, yes, get the shredder. Last year a woman cashed a phony cheque at a pay day loan place, using my name. She had a driver's licence with my name, birthdate, and address, but her photo, which the cheque cashing place made a copy of. It was cleared up fairly quickly after I went to the business to see the manager, following their phone mesages to pay up, but only because the woman in the driver's licence photo was dark haired and Asian.

The CEO said...

Identity Theft is a huge deal and it's getting bigger. A shredder is the beginning, but there's a lot of common sense that needs to be done too. Like taking your Social Security Card out of your wallet and leaving it home. As we get more and more alienated from each other, and more and more computerized, identity theft will become easier, and more prolific. Start preparing now. The shredder is the first step.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

You really are all heart. I enjoyed this heart-warming story. Could you throw out a container of milk while you are at it?

WNG said...

How good are those cookies? I mean, the one person you do not want to piss off in any building is the janitor. Believe me.
You are a kind and generous person, Hearts, who needs a cross cutting shredder:)

Anonymous said...

Oh a paper shredder is essential, I agree.

That guy looked like a bear though, so I am not sure I would argue with him if he wanted any piece of my garbage.

I have a feeling that if you leave some cookies out there you may find you will also be leaving behind a smile or two as well. And I have a feeling that you may be seeing more bears out there, fighting for you garbage!

Ian Lidster said...

Definitely get a shredder. Identity theft potential scares the bejesus out of me. But, with all other considerations you raise, the cookies would be a nice gesture.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I love the cookies! How very cool.

You know my bil was targeted for identity theft. It was a pain in the rear but it didn't cost him anything. I think it's like bees and cell phones - media bull.

seventh sister said...

A shredder is worth all the noise it makes. You also need to be careful where youput your out going mail. I caught a guy going through the out going mail at an apartment building where I lived. I did not think too much about it until years later when I went to open an account at a bank and was informed that I had been denied a $10,000 loan there years before, shortly after I had caught the guy at the mail box.

furiousBall said...

It's not too far away from time to have fires in my fireplace, that's my shredder. But yes, shredder is a very good idea.

Bob said...

shredder is good. people can use your discarded credit card offers and use them to apply for the card. rob cockerham over at even tore one up, taped it together, submitted it and got the credit card.

blooming desertpea said...

Isn't it sad that people have to go rummaging bins to stay alive?
Cookies in a Tupperware container? What a nice person you are!

Craze said...

Great attitude! I need to invest in a shredder myself.

Molly said...

The shredder is a good idea. The cookies even better!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I can't imagine anyone going to that much trouble to appropriate what I possess, but of course, to a thief, it's all gravy.


That's scary. And the cookies are in case these people are not identity thieves, just poor.


Wow. Lucky she was of a different physical type or it might have been iffy.

We've come a long way from pride in ourselves to a society in which so many people would rather be someone else. (Or at least, have someone else's assets.)


That seems like a good idea. Thank you. Mine is so dogeared that it would probably appreciate some time languishing in a drawer.


Milk and a big bag of shelled nuts.


And you are a person who knows how to make me chuckle.

Oh, and the cookies are very good!


The bear is much cuter, actually. Maybe the cookies should be store-bought, in a sealed box, though, in case they are suspicious bears.


Well, it doesn't hurt to cover all possibilities, does it?


It's hard to tell what is true and what is urban legend. I just heard of someone whose credit card was stolen who had to pay thousands because he didn't realize it and report in in time. The thief had given him back an expired card from the same bank, and he didn't look at it before sticking it back in his wallet.

Brethren, let us pray.


Yikes. Bad, bad, bad. I'm sorry that happened to you.

Our building has no basket for outgoing mail, so I always take it to the P.O. (Getting our mail is problematic, though, as many of the mail carriers do not speak English and probably can't read it very well either. It's an ongoing challenge with its own quirky charm.)


I like your shredder. It's so comforting on a chilly night.


That's scary. I usually just drop those frequent offers in the lobby waste basket but won't anymore.

I guess there are some very enterprising thieves out there.


That was my first thought, that they were supplementing their income with things they could either use or sell. Who knows?

If they ARE thieves, then I hope they choke on the cookies.


It always seemed pretentious to me, but sadly, things change. I hope to find a small one, though. I am not a bank.


Maybe I'll make financiers. :)

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

You're kind of a saint, you know that? A hidden one in a lovely disguise of sparkly red sassy shoes, with a sharp wit, a keen mind, and a deep, deep heart.

Bless you lady.

And... per your previous request...

There are now Colorado Autumnal Photos (or a link thereto) on my page, for your indulgence.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


While I immensely enjoy the idea of being a saint, I must, alas, inform you that this is inaccurate.

"If you knew Susie like I know Susie..."

I love autumn in the Rockies, and I'll be right there. Could you please put on the samovar?

la cubana gringa said...

Uhhh...what time do you set out your trash???

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Cubana Gringa,

I guess I have to come up with some kind of cheese cookie then, don't I?

Do you like cheesecake? (I love it.)

*~*Cece*~* said...

Shred! Shred! Shred!

Lex said...

Well, at least share the cookie recipe. I'm gearing up for the holidays.

Josie said...

Aw, what a nice idea. Cookies in a tupperware container. You do have a soft heart. I tear everything up into little pieces before I discard it. I don't have enough to buy a shredder.

urban-urchin said...

You have a good heart Susan.

Shredder, yes absolutely- we have two (I don't know why)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Okay, already. Hi-ho the merry o, a shredding we will go...


Are you going to do that again? I remember last year when you made cookies for the entire Western hemisphere.

You should be sharing your recipes with ME.


Probably more like soft in the head.

I guess if I buy one, I'll find stuff to feed it.


His 'n' Hers?

riseoutofme said...

Just last night I watched a documentary on the the Bear Man of Kamkatje ..... and now your post ...

Got me thinking on the connectedness of all human life ...

And then the need for a shredder put paid to all of that ...

urban-urchin said...

hahaha yep that must be it...

jali said...

You are a sweetheart!

M@ said...

yeah, it's your responsibility to shred your documents or cut them up... and leave the those poor trash pickers alone! :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


So far, the only wild life in our backyard has been tenants on a binge and the occasional skunk.

I always note synchronicity, too, and yet it never fails to astonish me.


All you had to do was ask.


As are you.


I feel so remiss, and ashamed.

Thank you for coming by!

Anonymous said...

有什么 有什么网址 有什么新闻 有什么博客 有什么论文 有什么图片 有什么音乐 有什么搜商 有什么帖客 天气预报 有什么

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for your visit.

What language are you writing in? I notice that several of the letters or phrases seem to be repeated.

Can you translate it into English?

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Dear Hearts,

I did this for Moon Topples once when he got a message in Portuguese.

This one is in Chinese Simple (as opposed to traditional) here is your translation:

"Has any to have any website to have any news to have any abundant guest to have any paper to have any picture to have any music to have any to search for business to have any placard guest weather forecast to have any"

I think we should direct your visitor to CNN or MSN. Should be able to find all of that there.
Failing that, there's always google.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

PS - Bright girl to pick up on the repetition of similar symbols... which would seem to mean 'to have any'

**More fall pics over the next two weeks, decent ones this week, awesome ones next week. I'll get mulled wine with Aspen spices on for you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You read Portuguese and Chinese? Really?

I thought it was Chinese, but my literacy has its limits.

It seems my exotic visitor was a bot. Bot's not to like?

CS said...

I bought a shredder, too. But what a nice idea to leave the guy cookies.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Well, I hate to think of anyone eking out an existence by riffling garbage. It makes me feel kind of sick.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

You're killin me Hearts.

REALLY killin me.

Man I would love to take all the credit for that. For two seconds I thought... yah... sure, I could just sit here and look at the ceiling and let her believe it... but my morals always get the better of me.

I don't read Portuguese and Chinese, but I know enough about different dialects that I can usually pick out which language it is that needs translating, and then it's off to Babel Fish for a quick translation.


That's the truth of it. Sigh.
Oh well. 10 seconds of wondrous glory... it was lovely, thanks lady!

Scarlett & V.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Brilliant and moral and beautiful, too. Of course you're beautiful -- what else would you be?

Oddly, I can often understand a great deal of the speech in foreign movies, even those in languages I don't speak, like Swedish. Sometimes the mind is amazing in what it can do if we let it.

Thanks for clearing that up, and for telling me about Babel Fish. Or is that Babble?

Crankster said...

We're getting a shredder, too. Too many people now have access to our garbage.

I feel like I'm being paranoid, but I know I'm not.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...


Thank you, that's very nice (cue light violin... pan to nice award at top of page; zoom in for close up)...

Beauty on the inside is the most important thing.

Brilliant? Are you cooking with special herbs? ha ha ha... funny girl. Book smart, definitely yes, brilliant no, and not a lick of common sense. Ask the local fire department. ;o)

Our minds are amazing things; think what we pick up every day (mentally) and figure out later; I bet you'd be really good at any language that you decided to learn; I believe this is very easy for those who are musically inclined (as you are).

It's Babel Fish = Babel as in the tower of Babel; when God got angry and changed the one language of the earth into all the languages of the earth and no one could communicate anymore; but Babel Fish is from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it's what aliens use to communicate... they stick this little gold babel fish in the ear canal and all languages that are spoken go through the fish and the listener is able to understand them all.
It's such a fun website, here...:

have fun!

Scarlett & V.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Remember, even paranoids have real enemies.

It's a sad commentary that we all need shredders, but denial would be even sadder.


You definitely don't want to piss off God.

Ask the firemen about your lack of common sense... Now that sounds intriguing. Would you care to elaborate?

I've always meant to read that book by Douglas Adams, but so far, have missed it.

Languages are easier for me than some other things, yes. I'm happy to have a new resource, thank you.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Reference my brownie shenanigans....

I keep the fire dept. on speed dial and payroll.

ha ha ha.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


So do you pay them in brownies? With or without nuts? Cakey or fudgy?

This is important. I'm deciding whether to head out there tonight. I love brownies if they're the right kind.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Oh Hearts,

The only brownies I handle well have been baked by the local baker/grocer and come prepackaged.

I could screw up boiling water.


Which is why so many of the local restaurants know me on a first name basis...


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I love brownies. Also restaurants.

I think you're toying with me.