On Wednesday evenings, when I brought my garbage to the curb to be ready for Thursday morning’s pickup, I began to notice that I always put out one bag of garbage while my neighbors disposed of anywhere from three to five. This made sense to me even though I didn’t think much more about it—I was a single man and they were a family. I knew the mother and father in a passing sort of way and would see children outside on the lawn or in the driveway, but one Wednesday while taking out the trash as the afternoon light was failing and the children were playing, I realized I didn’t know how many of the children were the neighbor’s and how many were their children’s friends who had come over to play.
That night the neighbors had four bags of trash sitting at the curb, so since then I have always assumed they have two children and the fluctuation of the trash from three to five seems logical—the standard deviation of trash consumption in their household for any given week being one black, 30-gallon bag—though I assume the equation will have to be recalibrated as the children grow and consume more and someday move away.
Sam Pricelives in Philadelphia, PA. He tweets at @sam_w_price.