The other morning I set off on what I thought was my last morning walk through the neighbourhood for 2020. Autumn had become wintertime, and the early morning daylight was no longer being warmed by the suns rays. During the last month, the sun was cautioning me of the change in seasons by appearing later, and later each morning. The sunlight and I were similar in that we were both reluctant to venture out into the cold mornings. Now that winter is here I’ll miss putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again without thinking.
I started my last of the year morning walks before the rubbish trucks had wandered through the neighbourhood. Laying in confused chaos on the footpaths were mountains of stuffed rubbish bins, plastic bags crammed with rubbish, overflowing green recycling tubs, cardboard boxes packed with paper and plastics, yard waste bags bursting with the last of autumn’s grass clippings and leaves, and bundles of cuttings tied with string. Even though I was used to the disorganised rubbish on the footpaths every Tuesday morning, I still gave the chaos a quick look over when I walked by because there’s truth in the adage that one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure.
When I was growing up, there wasn’t a plastic tub, yard waste bag, or cardboard box in sight on rubbish day. There was only a galvanised rubbish bin on the nature strip outside of each house, and there was never more than one bin to a house. Most of the bins had very little rubbish in them but instead, were stuffed with glass bottles, tin cans, and anything the chooks wouldn’t eat, or that you couldn’t burn in your incinerator. Our incinerator was an old 44-gallon oil drum in the back of the yard, with a hole cut out in the bottom to scoop out the ashes from the burnt rubbish to put on mum’s backyard flower garden. I don’t know where the incinerator came from or how it got into the backyard.
I forget which day of the week was our rubbish day, but mum never did. Our bin was always out on the nature strip in the morning for the garbos to empty. The first rubbish truck I remember was a horse-drawn, green cart. It looked like a massive drum cut in half, on wheels. It had sliding, curved doors on each side and the garbo lifted the rubbish bins into the cart to dump their contents. When the cart was full, he closed the doors, and the horse and garbo headed off to the tip, to empty the cart. As the rubbish was collected, the horse stopped, slowed down, and started, without a command from the garbo. It’s as if the rubbish bins were the horse’s traffic lights; a full one meant to stop, and an empty one to go.
When rubbish trucks replaced the horse-drawn carts, collecting the rubbish became a two-garbo job; one garbo to drive, and one to run up and down the street chasing the truck to empty the bins into it. In the summer the garbos wore footy shorts and a singlet, and it was a safe bet that you’d probably see your garbo running around the footie oval on Saturday arvo kicking a few goals for the local club. To thank your garbo for a hard-working year, you always left a few longnecks on the footpath beside your rubbish bin at Christmas time.
I think fate sometimes thinks about the hand it deals you. The last time I was Down Under I went for a few early morning walks in some of the cities and towns we were visiting. One morning, on a stroll through one of Melbourne’s inner suburbs, the footpaths were crowded with clusters of large plastic carts with different coloured lids. It seemed as if the colour of the cart’s lid defined what went into them, so each cart contained either rubbish, recyclables, or yard waste. I came across a Melbournian who was comfortably navigating his way through the maze of carts and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to chat in the hope of understanding a Melbourne rubbish day.
Me: G’day mate, is it rubbish day and why do the carts have different coloured lids.
I didn’t think about rubbish carts with different coloured lids again, that is not until months later when I leant Omaha was changing how it’s rubbish, and recyclables are collected. Each household was getting two 96 gallon carts, one with a green lid for recyclables, and the other with a black one for rubbish and yard waste. A truck with an automated arm was going to lift the carts and dump them into its hopper. I was ready for the rubbish collection change because I had no fear of rubbish carts with different coloured lids.
It was rubbish day on one of the morning walks after my last walk for the year, and the day of change had arrived; the large carts were now Omaha’s official rubbish and recycling bins. Most houses had two giant wheelie carts in front of them, but some had a mix of plastic bags stuffed with rubbish, green recycling tubs, and the new carts. It seemed that for some persons, the change in how Omaha’s rubbish was now being collected was difficult to accept. I wanted so much to counsel the rubbish collection traditionalists on the need to accept and embrace the rubbish cart change, but I stopped myself from knocking on the front door of the houses with the prohibited plastic rubbish bins and recycling tubs out front.
I still remember the first time I was served a salad before my meal. I looked down at the salad and started suffering from a fear-inducing change. I tasted saliva thickening in my mouth and throat and then felt my heart hammering on my chest. From growing up and living half my life in the Land Down Under the only way I knew to eat a salad, was on the same plate as the main meal. A meat pie, apart from a take-away, ordered at a café will come on a plate with a salad and optional chips. A Sunday night’s tea of cold leftover roast lamb always comes on a plate with a traditional salad of lettuce, grated carrot, sliced tomato, and beetroot. A cheese toastie, without fail, comes with a rocket salad. And a chicken parma isn’t a parma unless it comes with a salad. When I think back, I should have refused to eat the salad. But I overcame my fear and accepted the change that a salad before the meal presented. I ate the salad and with each mouthful of cut-up romaine heart started to realise how much better my future would be with “I’m glad I did” running through my memories, instead of “I could have”.
I felt my heart thumping, and oxygen flooding in and out of my lungs when I started reading how Qantas is grounding, until at least the middle of 2023, its fleet of Airbus A380s, because of a downturn in international travel caused by COVID-19 restrictions. I became even more despondent the more I read. As my fingers retreated from the keyboard, each hand curled into a fist, and my nails did their best not to dig into the palm of each hand. It was fortunate that I’d just smoothed my nails with a fine-grit hardened glass nail file. And then it slowly registered; I’ll never again fly in the worlds largest passenger plane and experience the exhilaration of Skycam. A couple of years ago, on a return A380 flight from Melbourne to Los Angles, I discovered Skycam, and I spent the next sixteen hours watching the flight speeding through the outside darkness and then landing at LAX on my inflight entertainment screen. On my next flight Down Under after discovering Skycam, I selected it on the inflight entertainment system as soon as I was seated and readied myself to watch fifteen-hours of flying through a dark sky.
As long haul travel slowly returns to normal the Qantas A380 will be missing from the skies, replaced by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350, and flying from the US to Down Under will never be the same again. For some, life without Skycam will go on as if nothing has changed. I pin my hopes on accepting no more Skycam the next time I fly Down Under just as I accepted the change of eating my salad before the main meal. As I take the step from the jet bridge into the aeroplane, I will rejoice in not knowing what I’ll find on the inflight entertainment, and celebrate that change has been kind.
The more I think about how I embraced and accepted change instead of being fearful and rejective, the more I can understand, and value who I am. I reckon there’s an agent of change deep down inside of me waiting to be set free, and from now on, I’ll welcome eating my salad before my bowl of mac and cheese, and I’ll start setting my alarm half an hour earlier to relax and meditate, and think about change.