In the suburb of Toronto where we live they’ve implemented a new recycling initiative which I’ve dubbed Project Stinky. Everyone received a green bin and we’ve been instructed to load it up with our moldy compost each week — from eggshells and stale bread to raw chicken and wads of paper towel. Everything compostable is greenbinnable, and us residents are just being asked to do our part to keep planet Earth, quote unquote, truckin’.
In the beginning I had no real problem with Project Stinky. It was a stinky project, sure, but really a small price to pay for diverting a pail full of garbage from the dump each week. If somebody was willing to drive around town and pick up our compost then hey, who are we to stop them? We even used those biodegradable green bags too, until the city left us stickers telling us that those really didn’t degrade into bio very quickly so we should just dump our compost in the bin au naturel. We said sure, kept doing what we were doing, and in general felt a bit better about ourselves for doing our part.
Then the maggots came.
I guess the blazing heat of the past few weeks did a number on the pile of rotten food sitting in the green bin outside. That explains why a few weeks ago I opened the lid of the bin to awaken a wall full of white, squirmy maggots that were wriggling up the side and all over the lid of the green bin. Stunned, I took a step back, let out a high-pitched scream, and ran away. Then I jumped in my car and drove straight to work, hoping it was all a dream.
When I got there I told my coworker Laurie about my harrowing experience. “Oh, yeah, that happens,” she said nonchalently, not even looking away from her computer screen, clacking away on emails. “We call it the Maggot Wagon at our house. But don’t worry! They’ll just fly away eventually.”
There was a pause as I thought about that for a minute. First I was like “Say what, girlfriend?”, but then I did a bit of research and found out that Laurie’s right. I guess I was just the last to learn about this whole metamorphosis thing. Maggots are just baby flies – cute little larval worms looking to grow some wings and fly around until they fall in love and make some more baby maggots with one of their own. It’s kind of cute, really. Caterpillars are in the same boat. After wiggling around on tree trunks and nibbling on leaves for a while, they finally clue in and grow wings, turning themselves into beautiful butterflies, haphazardly flying off into the setting sun.
Frankly, I imagine growing wings is a pretty tough task. You might have to spin yourself a cocoon or hide in a tree knot or something, you know, just for a bit of privacy. Hey, if you’re about to metamorphasize you need your space, I get that. And then of course there’s probably a lot of gritting your teeth, squeezing your muscles really tight, and screaming ‘Nnnnn! NNNNNNNN!’ a lot. Plus, you’re on your own. No one’s around to cheer you on. You just push and push and push and push until you finally give birth… to yourself.
Most people have probably thought about flying once or twice. I know I have. It’s gotta rank up there with being invisible and seeing through clothes on the Things I Want To Be Able To Do list. For that reason, I say the idea of wriggly little insects squeezing out a pair of wings and then just flying away is completely admirable. It’s simply honorable. It’s downright respectable. And we all know it’s just totally