Loretta gets serious about recycling to avoid the public stockade.

I  don’t shame easily. As a native New Yorker, my adherence to social norms was often optional, kind of like taking abstinence advice from my mom when I was a teenager. I would listen politely, and then do what I wanted. Mom, I should have listened. You were right, abstinence does make the heart grow fonder. Then, however, the effectiveness of trying to shame me was, well — let’s just say that two kids, one a daughter, and a hearing test later, I understand better.

But I live in Lynden now, and I am older, wiser, and slightly more receptive to following social norms. Or as I used to call them, well-intended “suggestions.” Many “rules of conduct” here, I have learned, are not mere suggestions. They are not even expectations. Take recycling, for example — recycling is a competitive sport here, with near-religious overtones. If I didn’t know better, Waste Management is a front for the Dalai Lama of recycling. Worship or be shunned.

Well, it took me a few years to adjust, but I am now one of the converted, a true believer in recycling. Or so I thought. Apparently, my beloved neighbor peeks in my trash can and begs to differ. About a month ago, as I was headed out of town, she kindly, and without being solicited, offered to put my trash out on garbage day while I was gone. I initially thought, how neighborly, there’s a spot in heaven awaiting her. But then came the totally transparent shaming, as she revealed her true motive. “I noticed that you don’t always recycle,” she said, “I would be glad to do it the right way.”

No neighborly sugar-coating at all, simply straight up Sgt. Joe Friday from Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am.” With that bedside manner, it is a good thing she isn’t a nurse. I confess, her words were nerving. I panicked and immediately went to my laptop and underwear drawer. Quick, erase my “cookies” and hide my toys! My neighbor is a female Peeping Tom.

OMFG, I never felt lower in my life. Fortunately for her, my hands were full at the time. I was defenseless. Hand gestures would have to wait. I thought to myself, “now I know why she’s on her fourth husband.” Eventually, however, I calmed down and began to think. (I don’t always get paid to think, but I do it anyway). The truth is, she was right — I can do better. Two Xanax and a properly recycled bottle of wine later, I am a new woman. It’s like I had my own recycling bat mitzvah. If the truth shall set you free, I am now free. That was over a month ago.

Today, as you stroll down the aisles of Costco, look for my latest invention, inspired by “she whose name shall not be spoken while sober.” After my shortish pout, I moved quickly on from my last invention, the “fifty shades of purple” post-brainfart warning system, to my next project, the most advanced garbage receptacle known to mankind, the Cleese Scan Can. Even Tesla is jealous. The technology isn’t new, but the application is. The concept is similar to the detection devices at mall clothing stores. You know, the alarm system that scans your shopping bags as you leave for the whatchamacallits sewn or clipped into each garment. If you leave without being “unclipped” by the sales staff, all hell breaks loose, lights flash, sirens wail. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, you feel naked. Who hasn’t suffered the embarrassment?

Well, my recycling scan can works the same way. When you put garbage in the can and haven’t properly recycled, the scanner senses your laziness and the lid will not close. Alarms go off, lights flash, and you are revealed to your neighbors as the worst of the worst, a recycling hypocrite. Ingenious, yes? I know, I am so excited to be the shamer, not the shamee. I feel empowered, almost worthy of praise from the recycling Dalai Lama himself.

And if you try to beat the system by leaving the lid open at all times, don’t bother. The smell is a dead giveaway; your neighbors will know. My advice: Capitulate. My design is foolproof. Dig through your trash, find the offending bottle, can, plastic, or fiber, and push the close button on the lid again, and again, until you either find the oversight, or you put your house up for sale, whichever comes first.

Who said public shaming doesn’t work anymore? Not me. I have kids to put through college. The Cleese Scan Can, $149.50, aisle 6, at Costco. I’ll be there Saturday from 1–3 p.m. to demonstrate. If you ask nicely, I will show you how to recycle a neighbor.