The Quilted Squirrel

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Trashed: A Buffalo News Review

If you’ve been following along with the real-time investigative reporting on the disappearance of our trash cans, you may be shocked to notice that this story has gone entirely unnoticed (or ignored) by the media. You and I know, as believers that the truth is out there, that there’s a reason for this. It’s easier to focus on lighter topics—the burning of the Amazon, the fate of the world economy in the stand-off between China and the U.S.—than it is to look ourselves, our neighbors, the very organizations that govern us right in the eye and ask “what are you hiding?”

We reached out to investigative reporters at the Buffalo News, but they were all on an indefinite lunch break. One editor was kind enough to punt the story to the News’ oldest working contributing writer— former interpretive dance reviewer Clarence Cleurance, who staked out an office in the ’70s and hasn’t left the basement since. It took some gentle persuasion on our part, but our investigation was finally given the recognition it deserves. Mr. Cleurance’s review is as follows.

This blog series was brought to my attention no less than three times. The first time, it was mailed to my office and summarily disposed of by my secretary, which is what I like to call my paper shredder. The second time, it was faxed to me via my private line—a number reserved solely for faxing catalogue orders to the Lithuanian version of Sears. The third time, it was whipped in my general direction from a moving vehicle during my routine neighborhood free library inspection (I like to be sure no one’s stocking them with smutty VHS tapes or James Patterson novels #dignityforfreelibraries).

I just want to make it very clear before diving into this review that I tried my best to avoid reading these blog posts. After the incident at the free library, I knew I had to concede to avoid further escalating a situation that was already posing bodily harm. The very last thing I needed was to wake up in the middle of the night to find these blog posts fired through my window by a t-shirt cannon. I do not personally know the authors, but they strike me as the type who likely already have access to a t-shirt cannon or, at the very least, know where to steal one.

Now that I have perused the contents of the posts, I can confirm my initial suspicions—they are absolute nonsense. The fact that someone was compensated for their composition is equally mindboggling. I will admit, however, that they are mildly entertaining, but when I informed the authors that I thought so, they were outraged. Couldn’t I see this was a serious investigation with the potential to dismantle the bedrock of crime and conspiracy upon which our entire society has been constructed?

“Look,” they said, “we aren’t conspiracy theory people, we don’t walk around with tinfoil on our heads. Sure, we’re suspicious that birds might be government drones but that’s only because some of us have children we need to look out for. But this… this material right here is valuable intelligence and the people need to know it exists.”

At this point, I begged them to leave the Red Lobster where I had just sat down for dinner because a.) I prefer to dine in peace and b.) I am in relatively good standing with the management at Red Lobster and didn’t want to compromise the complimentary Cheddar Bay Biscuit dessert course I’d earned with years of over-tipping and civil patronage.

As it was, their leaving was contingent on my promise to write a review that does justice to the seriousness of the subject matter at hand. I caught Todd, the Red Lobster Buffalo Chapter’s management bad boy, approaching out of the corner of my eye and hastily agreed to their inane demands. If you know anything about the managerial hierarchy at the Red Lobster at the McKinley Mall in Buffalo, you know that you never want to be on Todd’s bad side. A black mark from Todd can spell doom for your unfettered access to complimentary Cheddar Bay Biscuits—no review about cans was worth compromising my biscuits, which are, as I’ve learned, worth far more than my pride.

My final review is as follows:

After much pressure from the authors, including a display of harassment in a local fine dining establishment, I have agreed, against my better judgement to publish a review of this… series.

It’s vaguely like Serial, if Sarah Koenig was actually the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, but the wallpaper is trash cans and the wrongfully convicted person in question is also trash cans and the suspect is everything. It is technically written in English. So it has those two things going for it.

I will now reiterate exactly what I have been asked to say by the authors so I can continue to enjoy my Cheddar Bay Biscuits without becoming the target of a t-shirt cannon hate crime:

“As a thinking, breathing citizen of the world and a prominent voice in my community, I knew willful ignorance of the contents of these blog posts wasn’t an option. This story is much larger than the single incident that sparked its inception. Most of us operate everyday under the assumption that we are safe from existential threats. This insightful and meticulous account of the devastating loss and suspected theft of one creative advertising agency’s trash cans reveals that we are all, at any given moment, far from safe and, in fact, trapped in a carefully orchestrated web of peril that only the observant few are shrewd enough to discern.

Enter the headspace of an agency grappling with unseen forces—the tentacles of a much larger conspiracy operating at a hyperlocal level in their community. Each question leads to ten more, every red herring is actually a smoking gun, and the butler with the candlestick in the drawing room is actually a security product firm with a white van in a stolen parking space. It reads vaguely like if Truman Capote wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events while taking whatever it was Lewis Carroll was on when he wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but in a really good way.

[There was a lengthy tangent here in which they accuse the dentist in the office on the other side of their business plaza of stealing their trash cans to optimize his black market teeth storage, but it felt unfocused, so I’ve taken the editorial liberty of redacting it.]

At the end of the day, it is a testament to the endurance of the human spirit, a parable for the American Dream AND a gut-wrenchingly visceral account of the shared experience of human suffering at the hands of a cruel operator who wants to separate us from our trash cans, turn us against each other and sew a garden of chaos in peaceful suburbs across America.”

They also included a ten-step scratch-and-sniff guide to differentiating birds from government drones, a series of tasteful black and white portraits of distressed trash cans, a CD with a continuous loop of melancholy violin music and instructions to “play the violin music while slowly looking through these sad trash can photos for an accurate impression of the loss we’re currently experiencing.”

I wish they’d just sent me a link to a PowerPoint presentation. The photos gave me a paper cut right in the space between my pointer finger and middle finger and I can’t comfortably cover it with a band aid. As I am the only known sufferer of (non-medically diagnosed) partial small-incision hemophilia, this is a horrible inconvenience—an apt conclusion to this whole affair.

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