Trash Talking

Every other week, we, the fine citizens of Denver, are afforded the rare opportunity to flex our sinewy, civic muscles, explore our carnal yearnings for environmental consciousness, fill our purple bins with waste of the bottle and newsprint variety, and scream to the heavens, "Recycle this, oh ye god of responsibility and common sense! While our politicians dine on large drums of oil this eve, let us, the people, work together to make this world a better place!"

Recycling day: a special, Mayberry-like moment when neighbor greets neighbor on common ground, chests swelled with patriotic pride.

NEIGHBOR 1: Fancy seeing you out here, Tim. Looks like you're doing a little bit of the recycling, too, eh?



NEIGHBOR 2: Ha, ha! You said it, Gregory, old buddy, old pal! Just trying to do my part.

NEIGHBOR 1: Indeed! Say, saw your wife the other day coming home from her tennis lesson. Couldn't help but notice that she really is one trim little piece of botox. Love to host a bacchanalian carnival atop that plump backside of hers sometime soon, if you don't mind.

NEIGHBOR 2: Why would I mind? If my wife was as big a whore as your Kathy, I'd probably be making pathetic passes at the neighbor's missus, too. And drinking your first highball at 8 a.m. there, Gregory? Boy, you're not even going to live to see your kids graduate from high school, are you.?

NEIGHBOR 1: Lord, I hope not. Hey, you have yourself a great day there, Tim! And think about what I said about the key party.

NEIGHBOR 2: Uh-huh, you go right ahead and fuck yourself, Gregory.

Yes, recycling day is a magical time that all of us can enjoy. Except the Mexicans, of course.

Because while the adage advises you to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," here in Denver it's more along the lines of "Reduce, Reuse -- Hey, You Hispanic-Looking Man, Don't Throw Your Trash in My Pristine Purple Bin or I'll Call Immigration Faster Than You Can Say Injusticia." The smaller purple crates doled out to homeowners citywide are not the problem; it's the large, industrial trash-can carts that spark What's So Funny's ire. Because on the side of those bins, alongside the "Denver Recycles" claim and the arrows-humping-arrows-humping-arrows international symbol of environmental responsibility, you'll find a disturbing discrepancy. The English instructions read "No Trash, Recyclables Only." But the Spanish translation of those directions merely read "No basura." No trash. Never mind the whole recycling thing, hombre, compadre, amigo -- you just go ahead and make sure you don't put your trash in this giant purple bin and move it along, okay? R´pido, por favor.

Was there not enough money left in the budget to fund an accurate translation? Is Denver so bold as to consider recycling a concept beyond the comprehension of Spanish-speakers? Will Batman and Robin live to share another adventure of questionable sexuality?

What's So Funny wanted answers.

"It's a matter of space limitation," explains Charlotte Pitt, Denver's recycling program manager. "We try to translate everything we can, but we don't always translate everything word for word; it's tough, because Spanish typically runs about one and a half times the length of English."

What's So Funny opted to ignore the simple yet delightful sexual innuendo inherent in that statement, and instead continued the discussion with Pitt, who reports that the top of the carts feature more detailed instructions, in both English and Spanish, that explain exactly what you can and can't recycle. And this is true. But while that label describes the subtle nuances between corrugated cardboard, aluminum foil and pie tins in both languages, it's all in small print. The more visible banner headline informs English-speakers -- or honkies -- of the need for recyclables only, while the sub-headline, once again, reads "No basura." Solamente.

"It's about getting enough there so that they can call for more information if needed," Pitt says. "Then they can call our office, and we have Spanish-speakers who can return those calls."

In today's modern world, though, there's little patience with small print and frantic phone calls to recycling organizations: What's So Funny understands that you need to recycle that pop can in your hand, and you need to recycle it fast. So here it is, hispano-hablante friends of Denver with no time for cutting bureaucratic red tape. Those giant purple bins you see everywhere? The ones that say "No basura"? You can recycle there! Se puede reciclar allí! Enjoy, mis amigos, disfruten, because together we can save the world! Juntos podemos salvar nuestro mundo!

Somebody had to say it.


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