01 September 2009


I don't think I ever really discover anything new... I am only abruptly reminded of something which I had already learned the hard way.

When I got on the elevator last night at 1:30 AM (I don't usually come home that early but I had to work the next day) I was assaulted by a horrible smell. "My god..." I said, waving my hands around my face to swat away invisible swarms, the kind which in my experience always attend such a stench. When the elevator opened on my floor my knees buckled. Now I live on the eleventh floor of a twelve story apartment complex and if I could smell it on the first floor...

As I approached my apartment (retching-eyeswatering-gags) I began to suspect the worst: yep, it was coming FROM MY APARTMENT. At that point I seriously debated going back downstairs, taking a cab to the airport, and catching the first plane to Bangkok. The only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that the poor cat was stuck in there with that. If she was still alive.

I turned the key and opened the door. I am a farm boy. I have seen and smelled and done things that most people cannot imagine. But this was another level of stink. I quickly opened the windows turned on the fan and the oven vent and the bathroom ventilator and the air conditioner (it was quite hot in there) and tried to find the source of the stench. It didn't take long.

Here in Korea recycling is compulsory and all organic household waste is put back into the system as well, collected in tiny sealed buckets that you put by the curb with a quarter ticket stuck in the lid. I could never be troubled with that of course so I was in the habit of sticking everything in the bags you have to buy for your non-recycleable garbage (about $.25 a liter). The smell was coming from my garbage can.

I didn't take the time to do a complete autopsy but but when I pulled the bag I realized that something horrible had happened. In the bottom of the bag was another bag filled with the contents of my kitty's litter box. Around and in that was the contents of a bag of live clams that died in my refrigerator(dead clams and clam juice). In addition there was some rotten garlic and broccoli, cigarette butts, moldy yoghurt, and used toilet paper. (I had cleaned the refrigerator, bathroom, and litter box the previous night in a fit of domestic energy resulting from relationship issues).

When I got back from the dumpster and cleaned up the cat vomit I reflected on the lessons learned and fondly recalled the other times I forgot to take out the trash.