Cans on the curb

Today is recycling day. Maybe. It is definitely the night to take the trash to the curb (and might I say, we are very happy we could rub together enough nickels to buy some stickers this week). Whether those cans and boxes sitting next to the trash will be there in the morning, though … well, for me it is cause for a restless night.

My brain is pretty good at handling regular routines. This every-other-week stuff gives my memory fits. Trash on Tuesday, easy. But I can never remember which week the recycling gets picked up. My sources of information are (in order) Amy, the neighbors’ red recycling buckets, and my gut. This week, Amy says yes while the neighbors are undecided (absence of buckets is not proof). My gut told me to double-check with the City web site.

Alas, it is a human-centered nightmare. This is my path taken:

  1. Went to our family wiki to find the link to the city site. I could cut this part of the trip off if I could just remember the extension of “.gov” the “.org” my mind keeps insisting it is.
  2. On the city home page, I paused to be overwhelmed by the options, then find “FOR RESIDENTS” in the upper left.
  3. This turns out to be a contextual menu with eight options, none of which is “Kevin’s Recyling Schedule” so I have to decide which is most appropriate. I consider a couple options with streets and public in them before deciding on “Homes & Neighborhoods.”
  4. Lots of links. So many I gloss over the subheaders and completely skip the most helpful link (#2 in the “Featured Pages” section: Finding your trash and recycle day). There are four or five other links on the page that seem potentially relevant. The one that catches my eye most is “Holiday Trash, Recycling and Yard Waste Removal.”
  5. This turns out to be a page on the two holidays when trash is not picked up, delaying it a day. I was hoping “Holiday Trash,” “Recycling” and “Yard Waste Removal” would be separate items.
  6. There are no blatantly useful links heading out of this page, so I click at the end of the breadcrumb trail — “City Government” — which for some reason is shown twice.
  7. No convenient answers here, either. The page is so long and my attention so short by now that I don’t notice there is a “Sanitation Department” link at the bottom of the page, hidden from my view. So I head up to the “City Government” button in the upper right hopint for another contextual menu. I find “Departments & Staff Directory” in that list and click.
  8. While I have to scroll here to get to “Sanitation,” finding that link is the whole reason I am on this page. Chances of success are expected to be good, and determination is high. The link is a sub-item under “Public Works,” though, making it visually more difficult to find.
  9. The good news is everything here is relevant to recycling pickup. The bad news is none of it is helpful and most is circular navigation. I am drawn to words like schedule and collection and ultimately choose, “Trash schedule, guidelines and items not collected.”
  10. Bingo. If I wanted something that told me how recycling would be picked up every other week. I am most annoyed with the constant advice to “consult your magnet for your collection day.” Our magnets are mostly colored letters and four-year-old Sox schedules. All they are telling me is that I’m four years late for a kick-ass Miller Blow-up Bat Night at Comiskey. Then I notice there is a search box.
  11. A search for “Trash Schedule” got me one result: the same page I just left.
  12. A search for “Recycling” got 99 matches, the first fifty were displayed in the search results. I notice the same pages I have already passed and rejected. I scroll down and find the link I missed above, “Finding your trash and recycle day” (BTW, there turns out to be another page sort of like it but isn’t. It describes what I might find if I click on a link on that page to the interactive map.)
  13. This page is promising, but the instructions seem complicated. Also, unlike Christopher Guest’s amps, this one doesn’t go to 11 (although it does go to 12):

    1. Upon entering the City of Bloomington website click on ‘City Government’. There will be a drop down and you will then see an option for City Maps.
    2. Click on the City Maps.
    3. This will then take you to a page that is titled “City of Bloomington Map Gallery’.
    4. In the box titled ‘Inside this category’ is a link called ‘Interactive Map‘, click on this link.
    5. This will immediately take you to a page that is titled ‘Interactive Map Launcher’.
    6. There will be a button that says ‘Launch the City of Bloomington Interactive Map’, click this button. On some computers this will open up a new window.
    7. The window will open up the interactive map.
    8. Click on the search option at the top right of the map.
    9. Enter your address and click search.
    10.The first drop down button is the Find button, click this for the dropdown and scroll down for address look up, click this to look up your address. Your address will appear with a small red button overlaying it.
    12.Click the drop down that says Query and click on the Trash/Recycle Day Pickup and this will tell you what your trash day is.

  14. What I find is another button to launch the map. Following the instructions, I click on it.
  15. Turns out my browser doesn’t support it. I switch to a Firefox browser, still keeping my instructions open in Safari.
  16. Cutting and pasting the URL into a Firefox window, I click the “Launch the City of Bloomington Interactive Map” button
  17. My head hurts with the memory of what I saw next. Buttons. Checkboxes. Drop-Down menus. Hard-to-follow instructions still open in another window of another browser to make sure I get the info I want. This post is already too long just getting to this point, so know I spent another 5 minutes or so clicking things that led nowhere. In the end, I did find something by searching for the school across the street (mislabeled as a Middle School instead of an Elementary School), clicking on my house nearby, and then selecting the trash info. It told me that my trash pickup day was Wednesday morning and my Recycling week is “B.”
  18. Returning to the city site, it takes me a few minutes more to find out that the translation of Recycle Week B into a calendar date requires possession of a magnet available from the sanitation department.

In fairness, I’m exhausted and stressed. Mileage may vary. I’ve put out some nasty designs in my time, some clunkers thrown out into the world just this summer. This is the kind of user experience, though, that makes me wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

5 thoughts on “Cans on the curb

  1. woah. that’s insane.
    i guess they rely on distribution of the magnets, and since i myself have had enough of them to cover the fridge in the past, perhaps that works the majority of the time.

    not that that’s really any comfort, i’d imagine. 🙂

    you should call and ask them to send you one. it’s supposed to come automagically in the mail every year, so you can worry about other things, like statistics and dissertations.

  2. The recycling schedule of Greater Bloomington must be a security hole. The planet would be crushed like so many Diet Coke boxes if it were to be published globally.

    It could be that we do receive our fair share of magnets. We’ve been avoiding mail because people keep asking us for money (crazy people!), so maybe – how ironic – the magnets have been recycled.

    I’m also a little afraid to go look at our refrigerator for fear one was there all the time, nestled between the day-glo letters and the fridge poetry.

  3. I agree, you gotta keep that magnet!! I admit though that even though I always had a magnet I never knew what the date was so I still had to look to the crub for clues. It helped that we didn’t put our trash out till midnight, which I’m sure the neighbors loved.

    I wish recycling was easier in Bloomington, so that if you did miss “recycling Tues” you weren’t screwed and have to drag out a month’s of recyclables to the crub in two weeks.

  4. Turns out we did have a magnet … from 2004. I would have had the wrong week, even if I had consulted it.

    Happy to report our recylables were recycled last Tuesday.

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