Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

#61 Real Estate Man

A problem faced by all of us is trash disposal. Municipalities are mandating more and more complicated recycling rules. Where to put what regulations so convoluted that a Phi Beta Kappa majoring in Environmental Science couldn’t figure them out. Most people try — maybe with a little backsliding.

In Philadelphia, any apartment building 6 units or over has to hire a private trash hauler for their waste disposal needs. In a crowded city like Philly there’s always a problem finding space for the trash containers. Usually there’s a small alley next to the building serviced that will suffice. That often presents a new problem for the tenants in the 1st floor apartments who depend on that alley for most of their natural light and air. Dumpsters full of trash are part of the city scape it’s denizens prefer to avoid.

Real Estate Man got a call about and unusual smell from the 1st floor unit on 20th St. The smell was coming from the dumpster directly under the tenant’s bedroom window.. The tenant was quick to say that the container always smelled but this stink was unique. Real Estate Man went over to check this out personally.

Assuming the role of dumpster diver Real Estate Man found the source of the smell.

Real Estate Man’s story:

Pets are always a negotiating point when a lease is signed. With me, dogs are $50 per month, cats are free. The few requests for fish and birds I sometimes get don’t pose any risks for damage to the building so no deposit fee is required.

However, years and years ago I had an unusual pet proposal in this very building with the odor complaint.The pet was presented to me as a turtle. Cute little turtle in a fish tank. Turtles: less work, mess and noise than cats or dogs more interactive than fish. What’s not to like?

The tenant always paid rent on time, had no complaints registered and no maintenance requests that required my attention. It had been close to 35 years! He and his turtle had been ideal tenants. For the life of me, I can’t picture those 2 sharing a 1 bedroom for all those years so peacefully. Couldn’t have done it if they were married, I figured.

You can imagine my surprise as I discovered the source of the “unique smell” was a gigantic turtle carcass in the dumpster. The damn thing had to be almost yard long and 150 lbs.

I remembered those many years ago my tenant in the 3rd floor rear moving in with his pet turtle; I think he mentioned in conversation much later that it was an Aldabra giant tortoise but what in hell is that? Could this be the same adorable little 15 pound fella that he introduced to me some 35 years ago?

I climbed the hallway staircase to visit 3rd floor rear. I planned to possibly extend condolences but ,more importantly, to receive some sort of an explanation. If I sensed the situation allowed, I’d strongly request that the fellow memorializes his old friend somewhere other than in the dumpster out back. Isn’t there a pet graveyard for 150 pound tortoises somewhere?

There’s no advice primer on what to say in this situation.

A knock on the door elicited a response.

Me (as smooth as any funeral director): “Is that your turtle in the dumpster?”

Tenant (obviously not expecting anyone to notice, having covered it with a layer of his some of his own trash; looking forward to an unsuspecting pallbearer team of waste haulers to arrive as scheduled early the next day): “Yeah, ahhhh — Is that a problem?”

Me (thinking there must be a recommended way to handle huge dead pets): “Isn’t there some kind of large animal removal service?”

Tenant: “None that I can afford!”

As if on cue, I heard a clanking and roar in front of the building. It was the trash haulers — either a 1/2 a day early for tomorrow or 1/2 a day late for today. Both I and my tenant of over 35 years watched in fascination as the crew hooked up the dumpster to the truck. Both of us with rapt attention seeing the truck slowly tipped the container ,spilling it’s contents into the packer. Observing the compactor action methodically turn 150 lbs of tortoise into a smaller version of 150 lbs of tortoise. It was a fascinating process in spite of the circumstances

As unobtrusively as possible, I glanced out of the corner of my eye at my tenant. I thought I saw a single tear trickle down the guy’s cheek but I wasn’t sure.

A lifetime of philosophical, psychological, physical and fiscal involvement. Above all, a storyteller. brianbarrabee@aol.com

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