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Trash, Recycling and Poetry In County Alerts

By Aaron Kraut

Thursday - 3/6/2014, 4:30pm  ET

Snow in Bethesda (file photo)It’s safe to say most don’t expect 19th century English literature in email alerts from the Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services.

But there it was – Thomas Hardy’s poem “Snow in the Suburbs” — at the bottom of a Monday service update alerting residents to a rearranged trash and recycling pick-up schedule thanks to the day’s snow and ice.

It’s the work of Solid Waste Services IT Specialist Susanne Wiggins, who began inserting quotations into the department’s regular emails a few years ago. At some point, Wiggins said she found a poem that seemed best to include in its entirety.

“I wasn’t sure how a longer text would be received by our subscribers, so I hit send rather gingerly,” Wiggins said. “It turned out well, and here we are.”

Monday’s email contained some important information. Because trash and recycling trucks could not get to snowed-in homes, the pick-up schedule was moved back a day. Monday pick-ups were done on Tuesday, Tuesday pick-ups on Wednesday and so on.

If subscribers read to the end of the message, they were rewarded with this:

A sparrow enters the tree,
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eyes,
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.

“It’s really just a little bonus to add a seasonal touch and contemplation to what might otherwise be a potentially dry message,” Wiggins said. “I’m sure most people don’t expect to see it there.”

A new subscriber to the department’s alerts will occasionally write a puzzled response. More seasoned fans of Wiggins’ emails will let her know when a poem is missing.

She said people have told her they forward the notifications — which typically detail schedule changes — because of the poems.

Like many others in county government, Wiggins is hoping we’ve seen the last of the winter weather for the season.

She’s used up her stash of snow-themed poems.