Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

Thursday, March 24, 2005

It’s hard to dump on
new rubbish cans

I was all ready to rage against the city paying $773 apiece for rubbish cans in Waikiki until I actually saw one of the things and thought, you know, for a trash can, it's a fairly handsome object. And you have to remember, everything's expensive in Waikiki: hamburgers, mai tais, prostitutes. You don't want your trash cans to have some sort of inferiority complex. A Waikiki trash can holding the wrappers for $10 burgers and standing just a few feet away from $500 streetwalkers needs to exude a little dignity.

Pricey trash cans may be one of our government's smarter purchases, considering some of its past expenditures.

And these new garbage cans do. They stand along Waikiki's new wide brick sidewalks like proud little sentinels, or as proud as sentinels can be when filled to the brim with rubbish.

They are designed with slats to deter graffiti and built for the heavy duty of storing the upscale international trash that Waikiki attracts (the inanimate trash, not the tourists).

AS ANTI-GRAFFITI features go, the slat design is passive and friendly. I suppose that for a little more money the city could have purchased the more aggressive anti-graffiti rubbish cans which, upon sensing spray paint or permanent marker being applied to their epidermis, cause a small automatic weapon to emerge, which cuts down the offenders as if they were in a Charles Bronson movie. That would be overkill. At least for a tourist-related rubbish can. So even though these $773 receptacles have been derisively referred to by critics as "the Cadillac of trash cans," we're lucky the city didn't spring for the "Humvee" version.

And about that cost, $773 per can, is it really that much? Those ugly gray and blue brutes that the city has installed in front of every home probably cost a couple of hundred bucks each. They are a blight on our island view planes, and not only do they not deter graffiti, they seem to encourage it. By their owners. Technically, the city owns these trash cans that enable a rubbish truck driver to empty them without leaving the driver's seat. But many residents, apparently afraid that their neighbors are going to steal their personally assigned eyesores, spray-paint their names, addresses and astrological signs all over the sides of the repugnant receptacles.

I doubt you could find a decent heavy-duty trash can at the hardware store for less than $100, and none that could stand up to a minute-by-minute onslaught by trash-wielding tourists.

And when you consider some of the other outlandish ways our tax money has been spent, these trash cans seem like quite a deal.

Regular "Honolulu Lite" reader Don Poole put it this way:

"Let's start off reminding everyone that we built a stadium near the ocean that was expected to rust, and it did. We bought a sophisticated barge to clean our boat harbors, it never did. We built a softball field (at the University of Hawaii) in which the fans in the stands could not even see home plate. We purchased an automatic pothole fixer that never fixed a pothole. We built a visitors center at Hanauma Bay that blocked the view of Hanauma Bay. So why the controversy about well-made trash receptacles built with slats so that wind can pass through them and not knock them over and graffiti cannot be applied? They look good and they work."

As much as I enjoy dumping on the way city officials usually spend our tax money, I agree with Don. At least this money went FOR deluxe rubbish cans instead of inside them.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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