Tag Archives: rants

Talking Trash: The Latest on My Garbage Situation

So last week we went to Cape May for two days (can’t miss too much Musikfest). The night before we left we made sure to take out any trash including questionable foods from the fridge, dog poo (my husband wishes this stuff was made of gold) etc. because the day we were leaving for the shore, Wednesday, was also garbage day.

We come home Thursday night to find the trash is still in the garbage cans. They never came. This is August mind you. So my husband calls and they tell him the truck broke down and they would be over as soon as possible. Thursday comes and goes, as does Friday. Saturday I’m sitting on the patio enjoying the last few days of my vacation but I’m not enjoying the aroma of rotting meat and dog shit. Nice.

I call one number for the trash people, the new one they gave my husband, and I get an answering machine telling me that anyone missed on Thursday or Friday was going to get picked up on Monday and that Wednesday people need to wait until the next Wednesday and that they would credit the account for the missed week. WTF??? So Thursday and Friday pick-ups only suffer a few days (which I acknowledge is a long time in August) while Wednesday people have to wait a week??? Last time I checked my calendar Wednesday came before Thursday or Friday. So what gives? My theory is that Thursday and Friday customers do not live on the southside. I’m willing to bet money on it.

So at this point I had enough of the answering machine, so I leave a not so nice message and call the number where people actually answer the phone. And they do. And they tell me that the truck was just now fixed and they would add us to the Monday list. Fine. I get off the phone and go back out to the patio. I get hit in the face with the stench of the garbage. I’m back on the phone. The good number. This time I get a machine. They know its me. So I tell them on my message that the more I think about this situation the less I understand why on Earth I need to wait until Monday if their truck is fixed now. Come tonight or Sunday morning. I also tell them while they are enjoying their Sunday off I have to sit here and smell garbage on the last remaining days of my vacation and I’m not liking it. I also tell them how I am tempted to pack the garbage up in my husband’s truck and dump it at their place so they can suffer with it and I don’t have to.

Ten minutes later my phone rings. It’s someone other than the person who I spoke to the first time. She immediately has an attitude telling me my message was inappropriate and she didn’t know where I was getting the information that the truck was fixed, it was not. I tell her “well, the other woman who answered at this number told me it was just fixed.” Silence. “Well we have sent you four invoices now with a new phone number on it. Stop calling this number.” (Nice, see that, changing the subject) Me: “I’m sorry I’m not studying your invoices to see if there are changes. I call this number because I tend not to get an answering machine when I do. And as a matter of fact, I have never received four invoices from you. You only recently began sending them (we pay 6 months ahead) because I have to beg for them.” Her “No, we sent you three” (oh…now it’s three?)

Then we went into this whole thing about how I should find another collector because I don’t pay my bills on time. I told her if I’m ever late it’s because I’m pondering if I should find a new hauler before I pay. I also told her I paid the last bill in about two weeks and that their due date is usually the day they send the bill or the day after which is ridiculous. We went back and forth about how they were giving us a special rate and how I should be more appreciative. I told her I never once asked for any favors and that if I got better service with a higher rate plan that I would take it. I also told her about how my garbage cans are left laying on the side-walk or thrown in my plants. That I never know what day of the week they are going to show up.

So then I told her that I hope that Bethlehem goes to city-wide collection soon. You can imagine that went over like a lead balloon. I told her about how wonderful it was when I lived in Allentown and they picked up twice a week. She was not amused. So she said, we are adding you to the list to pick up ASAP. (I wonder what other lists I got added to…)

So Sunday morning our garbage was picked up.

Here’s the picture of how we found our cans:

So the big question at home this morning was whether or not they would pick up today. I got the text from my husband today:

“Garbage assholes didn’t come and get the garbage”

Please Bethlehem. Enough is enough. I’m really tired of hiring and firing (or getting ripped off by) garbage haulers. But I tell you one thing. I am done with one truck operations. If you don’t have a fleet, I’m not hiring you. I’m not saying this is a cure-all either, I’ve had a bigger hauler in the past, I think they were the ones who told me my house was not there anymore.

Why I Hate Allentown

OK, two things…one, “hate” is a strong word, it caught your attention right? I don’t really HATE Allentown, I’m just disappointed with it-but that makes for a boring title. Second, if I’m “Michele of Bethlehem” why is my first post about Allentown? Because I said so.

Now that all that is out of the way…

I actually have very fond memories of Allentown growing up in the Lehigh Valley as a kid. One word, Hess’s.

When I was little, my grammy and I used to take the bus from South Bethlehem to Hamilton Street and make a day of shopping and eating in downtown Allentown. We would start at McDonald’s for breakfast, then go shopping up and down Hamilton Street, and of course to Hess’s. Right when you walked in there would be counter upon counter of perfumes. I’d spray every last one on me. Not so much because I liked the way they all smelled, but because the smell would make her gag.

Anyway…there were toys, clothing, jewelery, shoes, huge chandeliers, marble, models, talking elevators, the place was magical for a little girl. My grandmother would then drag me out of the store and we would continue down Hamilton to Woolworths’s which she always called the five & dime. We would get ice cream sodas and I’d spin around on the stools at the counter. Then it was back to Hess’s for more shopping and then to cap off a perfect day…the Hess’s patio.

Models would glide around the tables and the waitress brought the kid’s meal out in a little refrigerator. I still remember my grandmother would order the turkey platter and I’d order the kid’s burger. Once the waitress left my grammy and I would switch plates, me eating the adult portion turkey platter, her the kid’s burger. And of course there was the mountain of gigantic strawberries and whipped cream that was Hess’s strawberry pie. This story also partially explains my horrible relationship with food but…that is a post for another day.

This was in the late 70’s through early 80’s, by no means Allentown or Hess’s hay-day but well before its demise. Actually, at that time I thought of Allentown as the cool place to be and Bethlehem as *gasp* boring. And it was true. Back then.

So what happened?

Hess’s actually helped accelerate its own demise by expanding into the suburbs (Hess’s West, East, and South are now Bon-ton’s, Hess’s North I believe was roughly where Sam’s Club in Whitehall is today) but suburban sprawl was happening regardless of Hess’s expansion, and the Lehigh Valley Mall and what happened next in Allentown would have killed it with or without the help of Hess’s own expansion.

In the late 80’s & 90’s Allentown was in denial. They denied that gangs and crime were problems.  They believed that the only gangs in the area were “copycat” gangs, not the real deal. Of course the truth was New York City was chasing its criminals out and they took I-78 straight to Allentown’s doorstep. The city was not prepared to handle gang related crime and the criminals knew it and exploited it.

Combine crime with absentee landlords and dirt balls like Mark Mendelson who got away with decimating the city’s housing stock and landmark downtown buildings and the city was left with a huge mess. A mess that has taken and will continue to take Allentown years to dig its self out of.

So what does Allentown need to work on in order to have any shot of reclaiming even a glimmer of its former glory? Well, working on the crime problem would be number one on my list. Not all of Allentown’s crime problem is tied to actual crime however. I would venture to guess that the perceived crime as many times greater than the actual crime rate. If people perceive an area as unsafe it doesn’t matter if they are wrong, they are still not going to visit.

Concentrating on the “small things”  like litter, graffiti, double parking, noise complaints, and loitering can work wonders on lowering the perception of crime in an area. Of course reducing the actual crime rate and seeing fewer headlines about shootings and stabbings outside of its public schools would also help.

So what is next?

People are willing to trade some level of security for culture. People will leave their safe havens in their McMansions (again, another post for another day) to get some culture in the cit but the reward needs to outweigh the risk. Some, particularly young professionals, will jump at the chance at city life. Think NYC, Philadelphia. Today for many people the math does not add up to make a visit or a move to Allentown worthwhile. How do you solve the imbalance? 1) Lower actual crime. 2) Lower perceived crime (taking care of the small stuff, appearences). 3) Increase the number and quality of cultural attractions.

Allentown has concentrated on number three in the last few years (restaurants, ball fields, automobile museums, plans for additional river front development) and up until recently has basically ignored numbers 1 and 2. It is refreshing to see that the current administration is working on first appearances by targeting slum lords who let their properties waste away and by finally acknowledging they have a double parking problem in the city. Still, they have only begun to scratch the surface. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Downtown Allentown still has a few old gems, including its beautiful historic architecture and the Art Museum, that passed the test of time. But besides a few additions like the Allentown Brew Works little has endured to replace the numerous treasures lost. The key to making investments in cultural improvements pay dividends is to simultaneously work to improve the crime issues-both actual and perceived. The city needs to be less inviting to criminals to achieve this.

So why do I “hate” Allentown? Because they gave up and I see little hope that it will ever return to being an exciting place to be like it was when I was a kid. (Exciting in a good way, not in a fear-for-your-life way)

Look, I know that even if Allentown solved its crime problem that Hess’s is gone for good but I cringe every time I hear someone comment “Ugh, Hess’s again? stop living in the past.”

Most often the people who say this never experienced Hess’s and it was something one must experience to “get.” The closest I believe you can get today to experiencing Hess’s is to get your hands on a copy of Hollywood on Hamilton – Remembering Hess’s You can pick up a copy at the Moravian Bookshop or by making a donation to PBS39 WLVT .