Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Talking Trash

After Ukie got his new strings, we stopped for coffee at a Starbucks in Claremont Village. As always, I ordered a "tall in a grande cup," which is my way of getting them to leave me plenty of room for milk.

As always again, they filled the cup plenty full anyway, and I was obliged to do something I hate: pouring off a little bit of coffee into the trash. Oh, I hate that. That little O-shaped opening in the counter with the sugar packets and the napkins and wooden coffee stirrers, the pitchers of milk and half-and-half, clearly meant for paper trash only yet inevitably customers pour out their coffee into the trash.

Making a face and silently apologizing to whatever employee would have to take out the trash, I poured just a bit of hot coffee into the trash, then set the cup down and reached for a sugar packet.


This voice stopped my arm dead in its tracks if a reaching arm were to leave tracks, that is.
The voice came from the O-shaped opening. From the trash. It was distinctly a voice. A slightly pettish voice. It had said, "Ow."

To test this, not thinking very clearly, I slowly positioned my cup in the air and dribbled a little more hot coffee into the trash.

"Stop it."

That was confirmation.

Losing my reflexive timidity, I leaned down and looked into the trash. At first all I saw were napkins and empty sugar packets and tons of little stirring sticks. Then the trash seemed to arrange itself roughly into the features of a jowly face with sunken eyes. Could this be?
"Yes, thats right, I spoke." The trash spoke with a mouth animated by discarded napkins. For someone who was just learning that he was insane, I felt rather calm.


There was no reply to that. Feeling somehow a bit embarrassed - it was my first time being reprimanded by trash - I mixed sugar into my coffee and stirred. Just as I was about to drop my stirring stick into the trash, I hesitated.

It spoke right up. "Go ahead, I'm ready." I dropped the stick in. "Please forgive me," said the trash. "I usually don't complain. Today I'm just in a bad mood."

"Not at all," I assured it. "If you don't mind my saying, you sound remarkably cultured are you from around here?"

"Lots of places," said the trash. "Consider where these napkins are printed. Between the coffee cups and the lids and the napkins and the sticks alone, you have several states represented here. You couldn't guess the variety of items customers drop in. You could say I come from everywhere."

I couldn't help but ask the next question. Somehow it seemed particularly relevant when trash was talking. "Where does your 'I' come from?" I asked.

"This is why I don't pipe up often," said the trash with a weary tone augmented by the rattling of plastic lids at the bottom of the can. "People hear trash talk to them and they jump right up into their minds, trying to figure it out.

"You use your mind to look at things. If you don't use your mind to look at things, that's awareness."

Somehow I could not dispute what the trash said. The only problem I had with the situation was in my mind. Part of my mind was telling itself that what it was observing wasnt true. The trash didn't have a problem; I had a problem.

One doesn't engage trash in public conversation. It is considered strange. Still, I lingered. This trash seemed to understand a thing or two about the Way but I wanted to see. So I asked it one more question.

"Bodhidharma said Buddha has three bodies. He called them the transformation body, the reward body, and the real body. I wonder, which of these bodies are you?"
Like a shot, with the popping sound of a tiny explosion, a plastic fork shot from the trash and caught me right in the forehead. I rubbed the spot while laughing. The trash, on the other hand, was having none of my nonsense.

"Bodhidharma said something else, you know." The trash did not pause for me to respond. "He said that someone who hears the teaching of a sage IS a sage, and someone who hears the teaching of a mortal is a mortal. Do you know what that makes you?"

"Excuse me, sir."

I turned and there was an employee, Starbucks smock and hat, ready to take out the trash. I was moved to protest, yet something kept me from interfering. She rolled the counter out, and within seconds, she had the bag of trash out and was tying it shut. My new teacher-friend kept talking, albeit the voice was muffled through the sealed bag.

"Don't lose your time, little man! True sages are not in faraway places!"

Now we were outside. I followed the employee towards the dumpster while the trash kept speaking, its face gazing at me intently through the opaque plastic. "Appearances are not appearances, dipshit! Stop seeking your prize within time and space! That way madness lies!"
And there ended his teaching, for the employee had hoisted him over her shoulder and flung him into the dumpster. She gave me a polite smile as she turned and made her way back to the store.

"Excuse me," I said to her. She looked at me as she might look if Lee Harvey Oswald had shown up to order a chai latte. "What did you think of all that? Were you listening?"

She blinked at me several times and said, "I don't know what you mean. I didn't hear a thing."

That was it. She walked back into Starbucks and I decided not to gild the lily. I sipped my coffee, patted my ukulele, and walked towards the car.


Pam said...

Oh yeah, MUCH easier to view and to comment!

Much better, my NSLS.


Anonymous said...

I like the cleaner, uncluttered look. Hal

Ji Hyang Sunim said...

wherever you are, there you go.

Anonymous said...

Much nicer...

shyloh said...

Tis me the shyloh

SecondHandMuse said...

Test, one two three...

I do like the look of this.

neo said...

I really like your layout on your blogspot..very nice.

Buddha Mama said...

It is so much prettier than Myspace!

*Clasping hands under chin*

nene said...

wow! looking good!
but you'll have to recognize us without the avatar pics :o)

Dawn said...

Tis very pretty and easy on the eyes.

mum said...

I like this look better than the other site.