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Garbage anxiety, Alaska style

Lois Paige DimensionDidn’t get sleep last night. Not because the sun is up playing all night, and not because of an all-night party next door, but because of the bears. It’s that time of year again, mid-summer, when brown and black bears troll for garbage.

Bears follow any food source, the easier, the better. Homeowners in Alaska know the drill. Be Bear Aware: DON’T FEED THE BEARS!

People post photos on Facebook, to shame homeowners — garbage strewn about driveways and yards, with bears happily munching leftover pizza, or licking beer bottles (Alaska Amber is a favorite among bears — please don’t ask me how I know this).

Seeing these late-night marauders alerted us to action. This is torture for a Not-A-Morning-Person. I dutifully set my alarm for 7 a.m. to: 1) spring out of bed in a stupor, 2) try not to fall down the stairs, 3) try not to yank the door off its hinges because I’m too groggy to unlock it, 4) stumble-fall down more stairs, 5) grope for the garbage container and 6) roll it like a chariot goddess in my pjs over our long-as-the-wall-of-China driveway to the curb, where the truck is usually waiting for me.

Last night I startled awake every 15 minutes: Is the truck here yet? Did I sleep through my alarm? Are the bears chewing on my porch? Are they waiting for me to emerge in my skivvies, so they can have a piece of me?

I flopped back on my pillow, almost asleep, then — the sound of the garbage truck working its way closer sprung me out of bed like a trebuchet. SMACK! Right into the wall. Rubbing my nose, I bawled like a toddler.

“Oh NO, the garbage, the garbage, the GARBAGE!” I yammered and flailed, like it was a 30.5 mag earthquake.

A voice under the covers said, “I took it out.” Guru Man (that’s what I call my husband unit) didn’t think I’d get up (he was right).

We argued about it the night before:

GM: “Just set the container out before bed.”

Me: “No! The bears’ll get it and spread garbage from here to Homer, and Fish and Game will fine us a thousand bucks!”

GM: “It’s a hundred bucks. Wait’ll after midnight, when it’s legal.”

Me: “Facebook said the bears have been showing up at 3 a.m.”

GM: “Then set it out at 4 a.m.”

Me: “Are you inSANE? Bears aren’t idiots, they’ll wait for it.”

GM: “Why do you have garbage anxiety?”

Me, screaming: “I do not have garbage anxiety!”

My morning bed-emerging performance made a liar out of me. Okay, so I freaked out when the truck roared in, thinking I overslept. Who wouldn’t? All day I’ve been a crabby slug from lack of sleep, moping from room to room.

GM: “I think you need closure. Get the empty container and stick it in the garage.”

Me: “I know where I’d like to stick it.”

GM: “You still have garbage anxiety. Bringing in the container will give you closure.”

I plodded down the stairs, out the door, and dragged the container inside the garage. Do I feel better? Why, yes, I do–until next week’s garbage pickup rolls around.

Thank God this only happens once a week. If I were a morning person, it wouldn’t be an issue. But I’m not — and I never will be (she said defiantly).

The bears don’t even care; they don’t appreciate how I suffer, to not offer them a weekly buffet.

Okay yes, I have garbage anxiety (she said begrudgingly). Anyone know of a support group?

— Lois Paige Simenson

Lois Paige Simenson lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She writes for newspapers and magazines, is a playwright and has a blog, The Alaska PhilosophasterShe is working on her debut novel, The Butte Girls Club. She’s been recently published in The Anchorage Press and Memorabilia magazine.

Reflections of Erma