Social Norms

I went for a jog last Monday evening, after dark. In my neighborhood, the acceptable practice is to put trash and recycling bins out the morning of trash pickup. It’s somewhat taboo to get this task out-of-the-way the night before, with a few exceptions.

When it gets hot, the trucks run early to avoid the heat. Better get your trash out the night before or risk missing the pickup. Normal pickup is mid morning to late afternoon.

Our pickup day is Tuesday, so weeks with Monday holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day are always fun. Nobody knows for sure to wait until Wednesday, so some put them out Tuesday morning and let them sit for a day. Count on it being windy enough on these days to blow a couple lids to the recycling bins open and scatter loose newspapers and past homework assignments across the neighborhood.

I noticed while jogging at about 9 pm, I was running down a street about a half mile from the house and almost all bins were already out to the curb. I was thinking to myself, what kind of neighborhood is this, anyway? With breakdowns in social order this close to my home, I might need to think about moving soon. Is this a precursor to rising crime? I’ve noticed more hipsters around. They probably think this is cool.

On the way to work the next morning, early, I passed the same street and glanced over to shake my head in disgust at this haven for thugs.

Oh.

I also noticed the trash truck making its way down the street. I realized it was my trash day too. While my neighbors and I are accustomed to the later pickup, these folks must be near the first on our same trash route for the day.

Social order restored! These folks weren’t bucking the norm. They just had a different norm that was shaped by their order on the route. They didn’t want to risk missing their alarm and be left with stinky trash sitting around for another week. That’s why they put their bins to the curb the night before. They’re still responsible homeowners after all.

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