By Hannah Berman


As December nears its midpoint, we are heavy into the season of miracles. In my world, it is the miracle of Chanukah and the oil that lasted longer than expected. That is not all. I am mindful of others and their beliefs, and it is well-known that non-Jews speak of Xmas miracles. But there is a new miracle on the horizon, one that began just a few weeks ago. At least I thought it was a miracle …

Initially, I believed I was imagining things. But as the days passed, I began to realize that there was indeed an inexplicable happening in my life. Perhaps a miracle, perhaps not, but suddenly, the lids to my garbage pails were sitting securely and tightly atop the garbage pails whenever I chanced to look.

The first time I noticed it, I assumed that there had been no garbage collection that day. Then I went about my daily routine and forgot all about it. But a few days later, when I again noticed that the lids were tightly secured on the pails, my curiosity was piqued. I walked over to the cans, opened the lids, and discovered that indeed the refuse had been collected. Both cans were empty. The lids were not on the ground as they so often are, and there were no papers or plastic cups lying around either. Everything was just too tidy. This could only mean that the lids were being carefully replaced; it had to be intentional. There was no collection of water in either can despite the fact that twice in the past ten days it had rained heavily. It was indeed a miracle!

That was my assumption until I finally caught on that this is the month of December, and the 25th is fast approaching.

In the past, if I happened to see the sanitation men who show up at my place three times a week, they were never particularly friendly. In fact, they were downright discourteous. I discovered this when I once had the opportunity to speak to them and plead with them to take care to place the lids back where they belong — on top of the cans. Two of them ignored me entirely. They didn’t even glance in my direction; it was insulting. But as it turned out, they were the nicer two of the triumvirate because the third man was worse. I wish that he had simply ignored me. Instead, he snarled at me, muttered something under his breath, and then stalked away.

But if there is one thing that these three guys are, it’s smart—smart enough to know that this is gift-giving time. And that answers the question about whether or not finding lids placed tightly on garbage cans is indeed another miracle. It is nothing of the sort! Simply put, it is the time of year that my garbage collectors get smart. They are wise enough to replace all lids and to make sure no stray piece of garbage, such as a plastic cup or a paper towel, ends up on the ground alongside the cans. But I would like to think that I am every bit as smart as they are … and maybe even a little smarter.

For a brief moment, I considered relenting and giving them a holiday gift. But, happily, the mood passed. As I am known to have a proclivity for proclaiming one thing and then doing the exact opposite, this in itself might be considered something of a miracle. Because I am sticking to my guns. There will be no reward for these men who, for just a week or two, took care to do as I asked all year. There will be no cash-filled envelopes handed out to these three who have failed to give me proper service for the past 11 months. Perhaps I am being mean-spirited, but this is how I feel and that is just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here