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.