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Well folks, it's gone, at least from our block. It was there for weeks, and it began to seem like Buffalo's first Big Garbage Day was going to stretch into the second.

Overstuffed furniture by the ton, mattresses and TVs; stoves, refrigerators, porcelain sinks, tubs and toilets; doors and windows, the glass and wood still good. You know the story: we've been programmed to feel we need new. A new color, a new model. A new labor-saving device. Remember how crock pots were going to save us time and electric corn-poppers calories? But here we are years later still running around like chickens with their heads cut off, consuming too may calories; and the crock pots and electric corn-poppers are part of our garbage heap.

I first became aware of the Sin of Garbage some years back when a tenant in my rental property moved out. I'd always admired her place for its color-coordination and her for her stylish looks. But when she left, she left a small mountain of trash on the curb -- and it wasn't even Big Garbage Day! All her color-coordinated curtains and blinds, clothes still perfectly good but not at the height of style. Doo-dads she'd bought on a whim.

She was gone and I was responsible for the trash she'd left behind. It made me furious. I wanted to give her a good shake.

I first became aware of the opportunities inherent in Big Garbage Day some years back when a friend who's an inveterate garbage picker pointed out an old oak chair. All it needed was a little elbow grease and I'd have an antique, she said. I was skeptical but it turned out she was right, and over the years we've found some incredible stuff. We've kept some and given some away and sold some at ountains of trashthe flea market and made a pretty penny.

Big Garbage Day was oppressive this year, and when the sanitation workers finally drove up the block it felt like the liberation army had come to rescue the neighborhood.

"I'm so glad to see you guys!" I yelled from the porch.

They nodded and waved; and it seemed like from one moment to the next the garbage was gone, though they left quite a small mess in their wake. "People get mad," one guy said, "but can you imagine how long Big Garbage Day'd take if we we stopped to sweep up?"

The neighbors were sweeping up. It reminded me of the Blizzard of '77 when we pitched in to help move the cars so the trucks could come in and plow.

"I hope you ate your Wheaties today," I quipped to a sanitation worker.

He shook his head. "Tough job."

"People shouldn't throw out so much -- some of the stuff they throw out is unbelievable. Well you've seen it. . . ."

"And it's only gonna get worse."

Our first Big Garbage Day is over, and our lovely Buffalo neighborhood is striking in springtime again. Our second Big Garbage Day, however, will be here before we know it. I wish the piles of trash would be all neatly stacked, we in our wisdom saving all that's saveable and being careful with the rest. But as the fellow who didn't eat his Wheaties says, it's only gonna get worse (at least before it gets better.)

It drives me nuts, Big Garbage Day, it seems to symbolize the careless way we live: pampering our foolish whims and polluting the earth from manufacture to disposal.

RUTH GELLER lives on Buffalo's West Side.

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