The bag is set on the floor with the others, awaiting its sorting. A student grabs the bag and brings it closer to the sorting bins: plastic, metal, paper, and cardboard. The bag is opened and the sides are rolled down for easier access to the contents. The aroma of coffee and tobacco emanate from the bag. “What is all this?” queries Max as he plunges his gloved hands into the bag, “it is really disgusting.” His British accent really emphasizes the word “disgusting” drawing my attention.
He begins filtering through a mound of coffee grounds that seem to coat every item in the bag. “Are coffee grounds biodegradable or miscellaneous waste?” Max begins scooping the grounds into the appropriate bin. “Geez, someone likes coffee. Is it possible to drink this much coffee in a day?” Max continues to uncover cigarettes, multiple cans of energy drinks, nicotine gum packs.
“Isn’t this a contradiction?” He holds up his evidence.
The students analyze the finding of cigarettes juxtaposed to the ‘quit smoking gum’.
“Well, maybe he’s trying to quit but just hasn’t managed it yet”
“Yeah maybe all the energy drinks are a substitute as well”
“Yeah, and all the coffee too”
The bag is a manifestation of a struggle with a simple and common addiction. I try to imagine a teacher finding time to smoke all those cigarettes (since it’s not allowed in the building), make and drink all that coffee, and juggle the energy drinks and gum while teaching. It can’t be easy.
Then, my bag is up for sorting. Paper towels soaked in all sort of things. A dead fish from my tank. Plant particles. Fresh liver. The biology students attempt to explain the contents. However, the sorters remain firm in their judgment. “Um Dr. Markham, no offense, but the garbage from your room is the most disgusting of all”. Of course I’m thinking, “Just wait until you get to the cafeteria bags”.
Well, I was wrong. It turns out the biology classroom garbage bag was the worst. So, I ask myself, “Are the contents of a teacher’s garbage revealing? Absolutely. However, I don’t want to be psychoanalyzed by mine.