As a privileged white male, I have been told my whole life (more accurately, just the past seven months or so) that I can not be a victim of anything more than maybe some white collar crime, a petty theft or two, and emotional distress caused by a Starbucks barista messing up my order (venti iced mocha with extra chocolate syrup, extra whipped cream, and only a half shot of espresso). Discrimination? Nope. Cultural appropriation? HA! Racism? LOLOLOLOL!
But this past weekend I felt, for the first time in my young life, like a victim. A victim of discrimination targeted at something about my being that I cannot change. A victim of ruthless intolerance.
A victim of trash can shaming.
I suppose I should provide a little background.
As I documented in one of my favorite columns I’ve ever written, my fraternity’s leadership consultant rolled into town and got me blackout drunk (in reality, I only browned out because I can’t black out, but blackout sounds cooler). Nobody knows exactly why, but I decided, in my hammered state, to jump into the City of Madison public trash can that sits outside of the Kollege Klub. Colloquially known as the KK, the Kollege Klub is arguably the most popular student bar in Madison, and inarguably the most Greek. And I did this outside of it.
This moronic event came to a conclusion when my boy Colby decided to give the can a quick shove, sending myself and my plastic capsule to the ground. So there I was, drunk inside a toppled trash can with tens of people looking at me baffled. But was I ashamed of my actions? Of course not. As a coddled white youth, I’d learned to feel no shame, for with all my privilege, who could possibly abash me? I’d have taken Colby’s actions as intolerance and injustice, but he’s one of my best friends (even after I punched him in the face), and was just giving me shit.
At least, that’s what I thought until this past weekend. After experiencing another bout of trash can shaming, I now know that Colby isn’t really my friend (newfound knowledge that possibly has something to do with the fact that I punched him in the face). No, he, along with the mystery man I’m going to tell you about, is a certified discriminator and trash can shamer.
Let’s go back in time to last Friday. I was back in Madison this past weekend for my fraternity’s grad weekend and decided to hit up the KK. No surprise there, for as an undergrad I spent many a night (and FAC, for you Madison people) within its hallowed walls. While my friends and I were leaving the KK to go get some drunk food, I made eye contact with the garbage can. Sure, garbage cans don’t have eyes, but “eye contact” is the most apt way I can think of describing this strange encounter. I had no plans of jumping back into this trash can. I had the story and I had the video, so why do back for round 2? I can’t explain why or how, but right when I looked at that trash can and saw that the top was not locked down and that it was open for business, I knew I was getting back into it. So I did.
Logistically speaking, jumping into this trash can was much more difficult the second time around. I’d estimate it was around 1/3 full of trash, whereas the previous time it was pretty much empty (I think — details are pretty fuzzy, as you can imagine). I powered through, smashing the trash down with my feet like a frash frompactor (frat trash compactor) and closing the door to my old place of residence. Here’s a photo of me while I’m in the act of shutting the “front door,” if you will.
See that lurking menace in the background? That’s the mystery man. Notice how he appears to be creeping towards me like he’s in stealth mode or some shit, like I’d be able to prevent him from pushing me over even if I had my eyes on him and he came running at me up a long, rocky hill.
There I sat defenseless in my trash can, a place I THOUGHT was a safe space, when the mystery man came and gave the Big Bad Wolf treatment to my plastic house.
Along with preventing me from preventing him from pushing me over, my being inside of a trash can also prevented me from bracing for impact. I probably would’ve lost some brain cells if I hadn’t already killed so many with alcohol that night and enacted the brain cell killing mercy rule that I’m sure is a real thing that I didn’t just make up.
Look at my face in that photo. Dejected. Soulless. And, worst of all, offended.
While I lay there on the ground waiting for my friends to help pick me up, I realized something: my friends were not going to help pick me up. It might’ve been because they didn’t want to touch neither the trash can nor the trash (AKA me), but I don’t think that was it — I think it was something more harmful than that. Because one notable friend who was present but wanted no part in my rescue operation? Colby. He just stood there manning the camera, documenting my struggle.
It was in this moment that I realized it wasn’t just an innocent prank when he pushed me over the first time. No, he likes seeing me in this position. He enjoys normal, God-fearing trash can people like me being hatefully discriminated against just because we choose to jump into trash cans. I looked down at his junk and I’m pretty sure he was rocking a 3/4ths chub while I lay there writhing in pain like a whale caught in the Great Pacific garbage patch, that sick fuck.
Sad and lost, I could do nothing but remain in the garbage can in a state of mental paralysis as I was hoisted upright by a mysterious group of Good Samaritans.
Why Colby and this mystery man decided to push my trash can over is beyond me. If it was just me standing there on the corner they wouldn’t have come over and pushed me down. Why does the fact that I was inside of a trash can change that fact? I’ll never understand.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Some hope for us trash can people. Watch the video of my rescue again. Notice anyone? From 0:07-0:11, we see a man pop into frame. That, folks, is the mystery man. Same shirt and everything. I’m not sure why he decided to stick around and help me back up after violently and aggressively pushing me over. No clue. Whatever the reason, though, it’s a heartwarming display of how prejudice can be overcome and discrimination defeated. Kudos, mystery man. Thanks to you, we are one step closer to wiping out the plague that is trash can shaming, and I am one step closer to contracting Hepatitis.
Let’s make trash cans a safe space again. #StopTrashCanShaming.
To listen to me recount the events surrounding this story via the dulcimer sounds of my beautiful voice, listen to this week’s edition of the Inside TFM Podcast below.