When Kauai County switched to an automated trash collection system this month, the ensuing confusion gripped the island, and it fell to one man to save the day.
The automated routes are not islandwide, just in Puhi, Lihue and parts of Hanamaulu. But the new system changed trash pickup days in every Kauai neighborhood. And Kauai people take their rubbish schedules very seriously.
"Ho, tchrow us off!" said Mary Williamson, aka Maaaary from Kalaheo. "For decades, Kauai creatures of habit have had the same once-a-week routines. Auntie sets the cans out on Wednesday nights after returning home from band practice. Junior drags the cans back before school every Thursday morning as one of his allowance chores."
To complicate matters, the first day of the new schedule, July 1, was the day before Kauai County’s first Furlough Friday. The following Monday, July 5, was a Fourth of July government holiday. Who you gonna call?
So Kauai people did what they have so often done in times of crisis: They called the radio station.
Ron Wiley of KONG radio started getting calls at 4:30 a.m. July 1.
"When da rubbish man going come?"
The anguished calls continued through the rest of his morning shift and for almost a week. For every call, Wiley had to go online and look up the pickup schedule street by street rather than by neighborhood. Some people weren’t sure how to spell their street name. True to his nature, Wiley loved being the hero of the great Kauai rubbish schedule change.
"As Kauai is, most of the calls were easy, good-natured, good fun," Wiley said. "And they were extremely grateful, appreciative and surprised that I could tell them during a quick live phone call their old pickup day and their new pickup day."
Of course, anyone could access the online refuse collection day lookup (www.kauai.gov/refusecollection), and many did, but it’s just more fun to jump in on whatever Wiley has going that morning.
"It was a tremendous help to have Ron take live calls on the radio and use the county’s website to inform them of their new pickup day," said Kauai County public information officer Mary Daubert. "Although the county launched a massive public outreach program, there were a number of people who didn’t know about the changes ahead of time. Things were quite hectic initially, and have since smoothed out."
It took about a week for the calls to KONG radio to subside. Some people were especially worried about the little old ladies and how they were going to manage wheeling the big bins full of rubbish to the end of their driveways. Finally, a representative of the demographic called to let everyone know she had figured out a system.
"I am the little old lady who is 4-foot-8, folks, everyone has been talking about," she told Wiley’s radio audience. "I can handle. I’ll leave the bin where it is and walk my rubbish out in little bags."
Lee Cataluna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.