Every day we walk between the rental house that we’re living in for this first year that we’re in France and the home that we bought recently. We don’t have plans for extensive renovations but we’ve been doing lots of cleaning, patching, and painting. This has generated all sorts of trash that we’ve dutifully sorted between our recycle bin and the rubbish bin. Yesterday when we turned the corner on to our new street we both immediately noticed that our recycle bin was sitting in front of our neighbor’s window and there was a bright red tag attached to the handle. Considering that we’re currently a guest in the country, we’ve tried really hard to follow all the rules, written and rumored, subtle and in-your-face obvious, so our stomachs churned at what was obviously some kind of infraction.
We hurried down the street and gazed at the words on the tag Erreur de Tri with an exclamation point to add emphasis. Now, the first word is close enough to its equivalent in English to figure out that we’d made a mistake but what about “tri”? I’d seen the phrase Pensez au Tri immediately above the universal recycle symbol on all sorts of bottles, cans, and plastic containers and assumed it was a reference to thinking about the tricolor, the blue, white and red flag of France. Oh no, we had not only made a mistake but we’d insulted the entire country!
Luckily a neighbor saw us trying to figure out what we had done and came to our rescue. She explained that we had apparently put something into the recycle bin that should have gone into the regular trash and finished with one of our favorite French expressions that typically means “it doesn’t matter” or “don’t worry about it”. We love that attitude but you can bet that we are now very careful with our tri or “sorting”.