Poubelle Piracy

So last week was Christmas.

Our street–nay, the entire Grand Duchy–was deserted as residents fled for the slopes or warmer climes.

We opened presents at home on Christmas morning (Sunday), generating the usual excess of wrapping paper and packaging.

It languished in the living room most of the day and part of the next (Monday).

Tuesday is Garbage Collection Day Chez Beet. So on Monday, I started thinking about taking out all the Christmas garbage.

Alas, our poubelle was already full.

But along our abandoned street, residents had taken their trashcans out to the sidewalk days ago before departing to the slopes and warmer climes.

“When it gets dark, I’m going to put this wrapping paper in the neighbors’ poubelle,” I announce to The Spouse.

“Are you sure that’s such a good idea?” he asks me.

“Look,” I say. “They are all away for the holidays. They knew they would be gone through Garbage Day–that’s why they all put their trashcans out on the sidewalk before they left.”

I gesture to our street which is devoid of cars, but has a trashcan on the sidewalk in front of every shuttered home. It is a burglar’s fantasy.

“I still don’t think it is a good idea,” says The Spouse. “But do what you want.”

So Monday, as soon as it gets dark (which is about 4:30 p.m.), I took two shopping bags full of wrapping paper across the street and stuffed it into the neighbors’ half-empty trashcan.


While clearing the dishes, I realize that the neighbors’ lights are on and their car is back.

Cue sinking feeling in pit of stomach.


Upon returning from my early-morning grocery store run, I note that the Garbage Men have not yet come.

Worse, I realize that the neighbors have ADDED to their trash can.


I run upstairs, write a contrite note using Google Translate that I then copy into a holiday card which I tuck beneath a bottle of crémant and leave on their front porch.

“What happened?” The Spouse asks upon my breathless return.


“You came running in and went straight to the computer,” he points out. “You didn’t even put away the groceries.”

“Neighbors are back,” I confess. “And they have ADDED to their trash can!”

“I TOLD you so,” The Spouse sighs. “What IS it with you and the garbage?”

Delayed by the Christmas holiday, the trashcans sit on the sidewalk, overflowing and mocking me, until Wednesday. Ashamed, I am unable to take any additional trash out of my house until then, even though my kitchen can is now ripe and stinking with Christmas turkey carcass. Not that I have room anyhow . . .


I am in the kitchen, working on dinner, when the doorbell rings. Skittles answers it, and I hear a discussion between her and an unidentified French-speaking man.

I hear the word “poubelle.”

My blood runs cold. I ignore the conversation, leaving Skittles defenseless with what must surely be The Neighbor.

“MOM!!” she finally yells to me. “There’s a man here about the poubelle!”

My stomach churns.

I wipe my hands and round the corner to the front door where I see . . .

Uniformed Garbage Collection Dude!

“I’m here to wish you a Happy New Year!” he tells me.

I have never in my life been happier or quicker to distribute a Christmas tip.

And I think Garbage Collecting Dude was not expecting a bise with it, either.

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  1. Elisabeth says:

    Spewed my morning tea!! I never would have had the guts to write a note. Hilarious.
    We all know how much I love troubled garbage stories!! :)

  2. Alex M says:

    Why don’t they allow garbage bags?
    ignorant in america ;-)

    • The Expatresse says:

      You can only put out what fits in your trashcan . . . you pay for the garbage collection based on the size or number of cans you have. Recycling is strongly encouraged, as is composting.

  3. Lovelyinlux says:

    OMG! I can totally relate, although I would never have had the courage to write a note and give them a bottle of bubbly. Kudos to you!!
    On a related note, I too wanted to blog about the fact that the poubelle men actually come around collecting their Christmas tips…now you have inspired me to write that one even though it happened so long ago.
    Happy New Year :-)

    • The Expatresse says:

      They did it in Slovakia, too, but also at Easter. Anyhow, with them, I just could NOT shake the feeling they were looking to fund their weekend and stopped by our house on a whim. Here, at least, they had their uniforms on.

      In Slovakia, sometimes I gave them bottles of wine if I didn’t have cash on hand. It was Slovak wine, so it wasn’t expensive. They were thrilled with it. I felt like I couldn’t trust them to pool the money and divide it evenly–if I didn’t have the exact amount to give to all of them, I resorted to wine.

      Here, I got the feeling they would share equally.

  4. Jennifer says:

    My garbage men have never stopped by for a tip, though I worry about it every year because I have no idea how much to give them. I can’t believe you left a note and a bottle of cremant. Very nice! Did your neighbors comment on it?

    • The Expatresse says:

      I panicked and lost the ability to speak any French (I guess I could have made the kids talk for me)–guess because I thought I was going to be dealing with the neighbors. I didn’t ask how many of them I was tipping–I just handed the guy 10 EUR and figured if everyone tips a little, they will get a LOT.

      Neighbors have said nothing, but we never even passes each other before. Sometimes I can see them in the house. (The Mister likes to read on the loo with the blinds up–I can’t see anything more than his newspaper and his head–and I guess maybe he needs the light?)

      P.S. It was cheap bubbly.

  5. Anita says:

    You are a very good person for confessing your crime. I don’t know if I would have had the courage for that action.

    That said — text me if you are ever in this bind again. As apartment dwellers, we’ve got your trash needs covered. The building’s two large dumpsters are rarely full – and we are happy to share our extra capacity.

    • The Expatresse says:

      In Slovakia, I used to drive around a neighborhood called Petrzalka because it was nothing but high-rises–easy to wing a spare bag o’ garbage into a Dumpster(R) under cover of night.

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