Column: This department is going to waste

Unfair and unkind. That’s what I think. Some folks, even a few North Forkers, are always saying mean things about the government — whether it’s in Washington, D.C., or right here at home. Like the government doesn’t know what it’s doing, or it doesn’t care about the little people, or it wastes money.

Now, occasionally this may be true but I maintain the real problem is a problem of words. And I don’t just mean politicians talk too much. It’s how they present things. Here’s a perfect example:

This coming Saturday, May 14, North Forkers can dispose of hazardous waste at the Cutchogue recycling center on Route 48. Great! And do you know who’s sponsoring the day? The Southold Town Department of Solid Waste. Now if I were a government, I’d never have a waste department, much less a solid waste department. Why, solid waste is total waste — just exactly the wrong image, don’t you think? Those guys need a new name.

Meantime, the Waste Department will accept frightful things like pesticides, herbicides and rodenticides. We don’t have any of that stuff in our garage because we’ve made friends with our weeds — and I haven’t seen a mouse since Disneyland in 1990.

However, the list of things accepted by Waste includes bathroom cleaners. I take exception to that. In my home, I am the bathroom cleaner. I’ve been at it for more than half a century and I’m good at it. I’m certainly not ready for disposal.

Then there’s something called lighter fluid that Waste says we can get rid of on May 14. I used to think all fluid weighed the same. Guess not. But I did recall something about heavy water, so I checked it out. It’s just plain old water that has some deuterium in it. If you drink deuterium water you could dispose of yourself. You know, maybe we could combine lighter fluid with heavy water and come up with something just the ideal weight. Leave it to the North Fork!

Another item on the Waste list is body repair putty. I don’t know exactly what this is but it sounds like something I could use. Increasing numbers of my body parts need work and that putty might be just the thing. Some of my neighbors would probably admit to needing body work, especially with summer-clothes weather on the way. The sale of body repair putty to qualified North Forkers over the age of 50 (40?) might prove very lucrative for the town. And just think how good we’d all look.

Waste wants our starter fluid, too. That sounds like some kind of drug to me. None of that around here. Besides, North Forkers don’t need any kind of fluid to get started. Just look at us. We’re movin’ and doin’ all the time. If we need anything, it’s a slow-down fluid.

Here’s one for you: Waste says we can dispose of paint strippers on May 14. I don’t believe we have any strippers on the North Fork, painted or otherwise, but it seems to me that dropping strippers off at the dump is a pretty harsh reaction. Couldn’t we just run the strippers out of town? That’s what they do in all the old movies.

There’s more, if you’re up to it. Waste hopes you’ll throw away your old room deodorizers and waxes and polishes on May 14. You know what? Waste may be on to something here. If a kitchen smells of cabbage or a living room of fresh paint, there’s no reason to run for the rusty old deodorizer can. Why can’t we just open a window and let in some North Fork air? The best things in life are free.

Those waxes and polishes? Underneath my kitchen sink, keeping lonely company, are polishes for wood, silver, glass — for just about everything except teeth. There are even a couple of cans of boat wax for a 15-foot Wellcraft we bade farewell in 1973. In truth, these waxes and polishes are classic examples of good intentions. We put them in our shopping cart, take them home and unpack them. Then they’re stacked on a shelf till they dry up, harden, crack. Never used. I can’t be the only North Forker with waxes-to-go on May 14. Waste is right — a waste of what’s in my wallet.

OK, so I’ll toss out my hazards on the appointed day. That could include, according to my husband, some unidentified leftovers in the refrigerator. But let me tell you this: We gotta choose our words more carefully. What town office wants to be designated as the Department of Solid Waste? Or for that matter, what husband?

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.