Grade 6, Andrews Middle School, Medford
Mrs. Twardzicki, Teacher
Personal Trash Can?
Well, here I am, a beta. All cooped up, living in an insanely small fishbowl. In case you're wondering, my fishbowl is on the far end of the marbled kitchen counter. On any ordinary morning, cheerful, happy-go-lucky six-year-old Charlotte would bound down the stairs with a big silly grin on her face and say, "Mommy, can we buy ... " Then The Mother (as I call her) usually replied with an impatient sigh, 'We've been over this before, Pumpkin. Mommy can't look into it right now. The afternoon would be a better time ... "
Anyway, this morning, for some odd reason, Charlotte asked to buy flushable wipes. FLUSHABLE WIPES. Who in their right mind, child or adult, asks for flushable wipes first thing in the morning? Oh, well. I always liked Charlotte, (even if she did reach her pudgy hand into my already crowded fishbowl to 'pet' me) so I decided to hear her out. But then again, I can't exactly object since I can't speak, either.
"Mommy, we should buy flushable wipes 'cause they're better 'cause you can flush them down the toilet and go bye-bye and never see them again. OK?" She asked, while chewing her toast hopefully. Geez, sometimes I wonder how she decides to ask for this stuff.
The Mother replied same as always, "Please, Pumpkin, not now. Flushable wipes aren't even actually flushable."
"But it says they are!" Charlotte protested. "Right here. See Mommy, you're wrong!"
The Mother just stated simply, "They aren't, Charlotte. They don't dissolve quickly, or at all in water, so when it goes down the drain is it not dissolved and it could get caught on a snag or bend in the pipe along the way."
"So?" Charlotte asked, curious.
"So then Mommy will have to pay a plumber to unclog the pipes and that's money you could be buying Barbie dolls with."
The Mother stood straight, and frowned, like the discussion was over. It was. The opportunity to obtain even more Barbie dolls was an exciting thought to Charlotte. "Now here's some lunch money. Take your notebook and have Daddy drive you to school." The Mother bent down, kissed Charlotte, and turned back to the news.
When Charlotte arrived home from school at 2:38, The Mother was much less exhausted than she had been in the morning. In fact, she even decided to look up the MWRA School Program for Charlotte too see what should and shouldn't go down the toilet. Sitting Charlotte on her lap she said, "see here, Charlotte? Wipes are NOT to go down the toilet," she said rather matter-of-factly. The Mother always enjoyed showing people she was right.
"As a matter of fact Pumpkin, here's a whole list of things that you shouldn't flush down the toilet. Go on, you can read it. Show me what you learned today." She pressed.
"Mommy, I can only read some of those words," Charlotte piped up.
"OK, then, I'll read the list. It says you shouldn't flush wipes, bandages and wrappers, cotton balls/swabs, dental floss, diapers --"
Charlotte burst out laughing.
"C'mon, Charlotte," The Mother scolded.
"Let's be mature about this!"
"Hey, I'm still six years old, where you're --mmmfff!"
The Mother clasped her hand over Charlotte's mouth. "Shh!" she said playfully. Charlotte just giggled, smiling her six-year-old with one-tooth missing smile. It was adorable. The Mother continued reading, "you also shouldn't flush tissues or fruit stickers down the toilet. "
"Fruit stickers?" Charlotte questioned disbelievingly. "What's so special about fruit stickers? Why not potato stickers? Or dinosaur stickers? Or even smiley face stickers? Why fruit stickers?"
The Mother chuckled and said, "Not that kind, silly! The little stickers on the fruit that tell you what kind of fruit it is." Charlotte just nodded, obviously still bewildered why anybody would flush specifically fruit stickers down the toilet. Probably the same reason they flush diapers down the toilet, she reasoned.
"Oh, and Pumpkin, just FYI you can call those items nondisperslble."
Charlotte was officially confused. So was I. "Mommy, have you learned to speak another language? Non-what?!?"
The Mother groaned, then smiled. "Basically what cannot be dissolved and flushed down."
"Mommy, what's that blob of words about?" She asked, jabbing a pudgy finger on the computer screen. The Mother frowned and moved her finger off the screen.
"Hands off the computer screen. It makes a smudgy finger print. OK?" she warned. "And Charlotte, from now on I'm not flushing my excess medication, vitamins or supplements down the toilet. See? And, not that I have any hypodermic needles." OK, was she nutty or something? Hypo-whats-it needles? Anyway, back to the list of things not to flush down.
"NO cat litter, coffee grounds, disposable mop heads, cigarette butts, paint or paper towels going down either. AND ESPECIALLY NO CANDY WRAPPERS." She glanced at Charlotte. Charlotte stared at the ground, redoing the Velcro on her sneakers.
"Whatever, moving on! From now on I'm storing the grease, fat, and oils in an empty metal can and then throwing it out so it doesn't go down the drain," The Mother announced proudly.
"Why? Because it looks weird?" Charlotte asked. "No. because they coat the household pipes and public sewer mains, causing buildup. That's why. Understand all of this?" The Mother asked with concern. What if she had no idea what she was talking about?
"Yep," Charlotte nodded cheerfully, not noticing her mother. " I guess to sum things up," she added gently, "the toilet is not our personal trash can and if we flush bad things down the toilet it won't end up well. OK? Plus, they used to dump the, um, waste all in Boston Harbor where the water didn't move, so it just sat there. It was awful because nothing could live there. The flounder even had cancer! Fortunately for us today, we live in a great city that has clean water. Now they release the waste... the water that contains it is almost drinkable, mind you... into the ocean little by little so that it will never build up again. That way all the poor animals wont have to deal with all the bacteria and smelliness and dirtiness of the water."
Charlotte smiled. "That's good, because I like fishies an' birdies! Just one thing --Flounder? Cancer?"
"A flounder is a flat fish that lies in the sand. Cancer is a disease. Maybe tomorrow "I'll take you to the aquarium so you can see a flounder. And what the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority does is actually a pretty cool subject if you can handle it maturely," The Mother said, teasing Charlotte.
Charlotte just grinned like a lunatic and said, "I think I can act grown-up about it. It's important to keep the sewer system clean." Then she added, "Oh, and Mommy? Forget I even asked about flushable wipes. OK? How 'bout some cookies instead?"
Hmm ... I thought. Got any fish food?
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