i paint i write

Live boldly, laugh and make art

A full garbage can is like a great novel that was never proof-read

When I poured the half and half into my latte on the counter I noticed the garbage can was full. I told one of the people behind the counter. “Excuse me. The garbage can is full.”

“Sure. Thanks.”

empty the trash


Then I sat by the window in the coffee shop and read The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith for two hours.  Behind the counter were five employees. No one emptied the garbage can and put in a new garbage bag.

One my way out I said, “Excuse me the garbage can is full.” They looked away and wouldn’t make eye contact. One employee said, “We shoved it down.”

Five people behind the counter, laughing, and talking. There was no line. No pressing reason to leave a garbage can full.

A full garbage can in a coffee shop is like a great novel that was never proof-read. Their instead of there, butiful instead of beautiful.

The little details of life are important

A garden with prize winning roses, but no one weeded. A designer gown, but the basting threads were never pulled out. A person with a beautiful voice but they never brushed their teeth.

Empty the garbage. Proof-read your novel, weed your garden, pull the basting threads, brush your teeth.

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.
Arthur Conan Doyle

It is the little things that people remember. The details. And if the author of Sherlock Holmes thinks that the little things are the most important, then there must be some value in my premise. I wonder why Sherlock Holmes would have thought of the full garbage can?

I don’t know why they didn’t empty the trash in the coffee shop, maybe they would rather be the star making coffee than the support person emptying the trash?

Some one has to sing the National Anthem and someone has to empty the trash.


Are you the star making coffee or the person emptying the trash? As always I would love to chat with you. Click here to comment. click here





About Pamela Hodges

I write slice of life stories to help you know you are loved, valuable and worthy just as you are. I am a writer, an artist, and a cleaner of seven litter boxes. I live in Pennsylvania with one husband, four cats, one dog and two birds.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • DA Schuhow

    Ah, I am still taking out the garbage and you know what? I don’t care anymore that I am taking out the garbage God sees all.

    • Yes he does.
      The small acts of service that make a life. Cleaning toilets and talking to Presidents. It all matters.

  • La McCoy

    Yes the little stuff keeps us busy

  • Sue Sutherlin

    I am a very willing support person; I am not an administrator (or a star). I am like you and reader/commenter Kaydi, in that I will mention the ‘little’ things that need attention (since I am not in a position to take care of those things), and I, too, feel irritated when those things do not receive attention. I also think all bathrooms should have hooks where one can hang a purse, jacket, etc. Maybe none of those workers could tear themselves away from the scintillating conversation to deal with the trash (or maybe it really was little enough garbage that pushing it down was appropriate for the moment . . . though it sounds like it filled up again after that . . . ).

    • Hello Sue,
      They did remove the trash bag as I was leaving. I reminded them on the way out. I always think I am being kind to let them know.
      They might not see it that way.
      An observation on the roles people like to take.

  • I wish I could lie and say I’m the one emptying the garbage while singing the national anthem. Sometimes I feel like I’m emptying the trash all the time and my attitude isn’t what it should be.

    I love the reminder you gave that the little things do matter. Oh do they matter. Thanks Pamela.

    • Hello Anne,
      Sometimes the little things is all the matters.
      Taking time to hold Olivia, and reading books to children.
      My attitude is rarely what is should be, but each day, I wake up and try again. Thankfully I don’t have to do this life alone. The problem is I forget I am.
      Hugs to you.

  • Teresa R

    sounds like where I work (a motel); I am the one emptying the trash can, but others around me ignore the obvious. I get complaints from guests about stains/burn holes on bedspreads and sheets, but housekeepers don’t see them as they are putting these on the bed. Condoms and needles tucked under the mattress – no one checking. I’ll tell the owner about lightbulbs that need to be changed – six months later, the bulbs are still not working.

    • Hello Teresa,
      I can’t understand how people can ignore the obvious. It is very clear that you care about the job you do. How many owners does it take to change a lightbulb?
      More than one it appears.
      All my best,

  • Richard Carlson, PhD found success years ago with his book series “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” but I always felt that “the devil is in the details.” Sometimes done trumps perfect and it’s more important to finish than be perfect. But the situation in that coffee shop is just mediocrity in action. They just don’t care. I love your analogy, Pamela, about singing the national anthem and emptying the trash. Well said!

    • John,
      “Sometimes done trumps perfect and it’s more important to finish than be perfect.” Now this is a saying I would should write all over my walls with magic marker.
      I have so many projects that are almost finished, but they might not be perfect, so I don’t finish them.
      I didn’t sing the national anthem today but I did clean the toilets.
      Does the Police Chief ever empty the trash? It might be a new area of expertise for you.

      • Funny you should ask. When our city hit some budget cuts, I did empty my own trash. And recycle and shred documents. It reminded me to have humility!

  • Kaydi

    Pamela – This story makes me smile, because I do the same thing. I tell people if the bathrooms are dirty, or missing paper towels, or the garbage is full. However, I also get really frustrated when my suggestions are overlooked. At a hair cutting place I’ve been to, I suggested a hook in the bathroom for a coat or purse, over a year ago. I again suggested it, as there is no place but the floor or in the sink to put my purse. Still, no hook. Somehow, it feels like I am just not important enough to be taken seriously. And why do I think I am right? I really struggle with this because it’s not all about me, but still, I feel right!

    • Kaydi,
      You are right.
      And I get frustrated too when they don’t listen. Perhaps you need to find the person who is responsible for proper hook management.
      Call the owner of the company. Get that hook.
      I understand the feeling of not feeling important enough to be taken seriously. Most people don’t truly care. They just want to put in the hours and leave.
      We are people who notice. And we care.
      If no one ever listens to your wise council it says more about them than about you. You are always important.

  • Berdeane Bodley

    If they won’t empty the trash, I wonder how clean they keep the counter tops, do they wash their hands after using the bathroom, what else do they neglect??? Bleuck!!!

    • Oh mother!!!
      I hadn’t even thought of that. That is such a yucky thought.
      Actually I carry little wipes with me to wipe down the tables when I sit at a public table. Die germs, die.
      Love your daughter.

  • Robn Patrick

    I flat out like your writing Pamela Hodges.

    • Ah, Robn,
      I flat out like you. Thank you for liking my writing flat out. I need to think of a story where I can write, “flat out” a lot.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Absolutely brilliant!!!! I hope you never visit this shop again – clearly, they have no respect for their patrons *eesh*

    Thanks for another thought-provoking ‘nugget of life’ – don’t ever stop penning these! <3

    LOVE ya

    • Hello Kitto,
      You are so kind.
      Actually I go to this coffee shop often. They make good coffee and are polite. They just don’t know serving well includes taking care of trash.

      Thank you for the encouragement to keep writing.

      Love ya too,

  • Pat Meyers

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if the same person did both? We should always realize that although we are the star at something emptying trash is not beneath us but, rather, a lovely service to those around us. Lovely writing and thoughts, as usual, Pamela.

    • Good Morning Pat,
      Emptying trash is a lovely service. You are so right.
      Everyone is equal. And all jobs are important.
      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

  • Rhonda

    While you were reading what was Pooh Hodges doing? Did you get the 7 litter boxes cleaned yesterday?

    • Pooh was at home taking a nap. Pooh is interviewing the author, Marion Roach Smith about memoir writing. So I was reading up to help him with his questions.
      I did clean the litter boxes yesterday, but still have to do them today.
      Charlie will pull socks laying on the floor into the litter boxes if I don’t clean them every day.

  • Betsy Michele Hubbard

    It amazes me how people can ignore their reponsibilities. How frustrating. Glad you got some time to read and sip your coffee. Other than the trash can incident, sounds kind of wonderful. I also loved all the comparisons to the repulsive nature of brilliance being interrupted by ignorance.

    • Hello Betsy Michele Hubbard,
      The coffee shop visit was wonderful. I sat in a leather chair by the window bathed in a beam of sunlight.
      It was more an observation of human nature than a complaint. Everyone wanted to be the star behind the counter, but no one wanted to be the supporting staff.