At the risk of sounding like all these women who cannot start a sentence without the phrase “my husband,” I am going to start what should have been my first sentence with the words “my husband.”
My husband M is an easy-going guy; his smile comes easy when “all is going,” as we say German.
In London, outside the house, the man hardly smiled. Early on I noticed that in particular, my neighbours used to annoy M for one single reason.
No, it wasn’t when they played music so loud we would hear from two doors down. Or that he was annoyed in solidarity with me when I took issue with the idiots cutting off Maxi Priest’s Close To You to play some crap from that Justin Bieber creature. The man even found it amusing when I said I saw a drug dealer selling something lowkey to someone in the area. And when I exhibited applause-worthy oyibo behaviour and called the Police to file a noise nuisance complaint against some of the same neighbours he hates, Oga broke into a guffaw, laughing in my face before reminding me that the essence of Guy Fawkes Day, was loud fireworks.
Even loud sex did not faze him. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the only thing that annoyed M was when we had to take out the trash. He would grumble that there was no space because someone refused to shred their cartons into smaller pieces, and proceed to become the neighbourhood shredder, tearing up the cartons, arranging the trash. But for my insistence on him washing his hands, the man would have been bringing in anything from normal germs to possibly herpes and Tuberculosis into our home, all because of his fixation on the trash. To save the marriage and ensure I get paper, I stopped sending him to take out the trash.
It was when we began living in Germany I saw the reason for M’s weird behaviour.
Just like an agbero
Let me just say this; Germany’s global reputation as the country with the highest recycling rate comes as the greatest shock for a Nigerian who used to turn up her wide nose at people who fling Coke bottles out of moving Hummers into their custom-made trashcan called Third Mainland Bridge.
I prided myself on the amount of trash that filled my handbag until I deposited it all, like a responsible citizen into the nearest bin…until Germany happened. Here, for innocently putting all my trash in one bag, I was put in the same category as the Agbero that gulps one sachet of Calypso Dry gin and throws it next to the pile of used condoms in some backstreet Lagos Island gutter.
In Germany they recycle compost, paper, plastic, bottles, “rest of trash” and several other categories, depending on your region.
For starters, the plastic waste must be in a yellow bag, the “rest of” in transparent coloured bags or it will sit there waiting for your ancestors, while the compost I thankfully do not do because my city is not as pedantic. For the paper, you must make sure all cartons are collapsed or cut, fully flattened. Bottles are a minefield; you must remove the bottle tops, and recycle based on colours, yes, colours. Your black Baileys bottle must never mix with the sparkling water bottle in the dump; quite like how the caste system operates in parts of Eastern Nigeria.
‘Respeck’ the Pfand
Within the recycling of plastics, the fear of the Pfand sign is the beginning of wisdom. You are forced to return many types of bottles because you automatically deposit anything from 8cents to 25 cents for one bottle of Coke, or water you buy anywhere. If you fail to return it, you have lost money. When I finally understood what the Pfand sign meant, I literally cried at all the money I had thrown away.
The only good thing I see in this situation is that at the recycling station, you see many homeless or poor people with bags of plastic bottles. They go about collecting these containers which they exchange for money at the machines.
Chai….bushness no good o! I used to gape at young people handing empty bottles to beggars on the street, wondering what the hell they were doing – this person is looking for money and you are giving them empty bottles??!!! In time, I realised that it is simple: people who have a lot to drink on the move give these bottles to the homeless so they can recycle it for cash; kind of a way of giving arms, oyinbo style.
To be honest, I was once so frustrated at all the serenren I once asked M if the Environmental Minister’s penis would fall off if I did not collapse some cartons. Nevertheless, I admit I now know the reason why M used to almost nearly die when he saw the Sarewagba way Londoners do their own recycling.
So before I reach for my crowbar, please…join me in prayer.
Let us pray.
I say close your eyes, let us pray.
What’s that? Oh na true – you cannot follow the prayer if you close your eyes…my bad.
Here goes: may Jesus/Jehovah/Allah/Sango/Sopona/Amadioha/Money/ Pedigree (insert any other relevant gods you worship) sort out all your worries, your shame, your problems and challenges the way Germans sort out their recycling!
See you next week.