Trash day: mundane, yet remarkable

A city street, lined with trash cans, as seen from a mountain.

Note the trash cans.

Coming back from a morning hike in the Sandia Mountains above Albuquerque, I rounded a bend to see the scene above.

Note the trash cans lining the street. It is mundane, yet remarkable precisely because of how unremarkable it is. A large community of people has somehow come together, to act collectively, to get rid  of trash. This collective action, the getting-rid-of-trash stuff, depends on the broader collective action of building streets. It also requires a common shared understanding: “In my neighborhood, Monday is trash day.” Which rests on an even broader collective shared understanding – the notion of “Monday”, of a calendar.

The layers of such shared collective actions in this picture go on and on – the power lines running down the foothills behind me as I took he picture, the big water tanks and underground plumbing, the flood control dams at the mouths of each arroyo that allowed those houses to be there without being washed away.

Cities are amazing things, all the more so because of how mundane it all seems.


  1. I wonder how many neighbors only speak to each other because of “Trash Day.” It’s definitely more than zero percent. Another community-building aspect.

  2. I enjoy your “mundane” observations that translate into deeper issues of community and the commonalities that bond us. Love seeing the photos of my hometown.

  3. On my block, the retired people put away everybody’s trash and recycling bins once the trucks have gone by. A nice service for working people, and you can’t tell who is gone, so a security boost. And the retirees get a little exercise and to see how the block is faring.

    I don’t know of any other blocks that do this, but it is a comfort.

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