Ask Aunt Chelsea, July 3, 2014


Dear Aunt Chelsea:
I’ve lived in Chelsea for almost 15 years, and this has never happened to me before. Last week, I received a ticket in the mail for illegal dumping of garbage in our public streets. The notice was created by a public works employee. It was issued on a date and time when I’m at work — PLUS, I live on the 16th floor of a doorman apartment building, which has a designated room with a garbage chute. I bag and recycle my garbage consistently. The garbage is transported to a garbage container in the basement, and then picked up by a garbage truck.

I have no reason to leave garbage out in the street. It was obviously mishandled by building management, the sanitation department, or somebody picking through my trash (which, on the date in question, contained some discarded mail that had my name and address on it).

Now I have to take a day off work, to go to court, to plead my case and “answer” for this infraction (which in fact, I did not commit). What gives, auntie?  I’m accused of dumping, but I feel like I’m the one being dumped on. The whole thing smells like garbage. Just call me:
Innocent, but Charged

Dear Innocent:
There’s only one thing you’re guilty of, and that’s naiveté. The indignant tone of your letter is grotesquely out of synch with your status as a longtime New Yorker. Fifteen years in Chelsea, and this is the thing that comes as a shock? Really, dear. Considering the rapid vertical expansion of our beloved neighborhood, residing on the 16th floor hardly entitles you to occupy the high ground — moral or physical.

Like so much in life (which, as this event illustrates, just isn’t fair), the happiness you seek requires making peace with the concept of personal responsibility. Until then, I fear that even a win in court won’t knock that chip off your shoulder.

Bottom line: Don’t leave a paper trail. If a label with your name ended up in the middle of the street, a reasonable public works employee is not going to see the need for any further investigation. The buck stops at (and the ticket comes to) your desk. Just be happy that it was only your name and address on a mailing label, and not enough personal information with which to commit identity theft. Otherwise, somebody could have drained your bank account and spent your hard-earned money on high-end Yahtzee dice, Jean Nate, and footsie socks (well, that’s what old Aunt Chelsea would have done, if such a sinister deed were in her nature).

So, Innocent, my advice is to bite the bullet, purchase a shredder, and never put anything down the garbage chute that can be traced back to you. Now change your ways by following my instructions — and the next time you end up in court, I’ll be there as a character witness! Good luck, hon.

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