Every sensible person has wondered: What if I am right, and the whole world is mad? What if I see things as they truly are, and all else are gripped by a daft illusion?

If so, what obligations does this knowledge impose? After all, if I see a world perilously askew, and the great plodding mass of humanity insists that all is well, am I not obligated to stake life and honor on my convictions — sound the tocsin, ring the bell, wake the sleepwalkers from their perilous course toward the cliff?

Let me put it another way: The week following Memorial Day, everyone on the block had their garbage out on Friday, and I knew this was a day early.

As I drove to work, I passed one house after the other with the carts out, handles facing toward the street to make things easier on the workers, although heaven forfend they extend the same courtesy to us. I'm not complaining; it's a hard job and you can't ask them to put the handle side in our favor — although now and then it would be nice, but they never do. I'm just saying! After 22 years! That's 1,144 instances of purposefully positioning the handles. Once would be nice.

Anyway. Everyone except us had their bins out, and I stopped to make sure I wasn't wrong. We are all full of certainties we stopped interrogating long ago, absent new evidence. If someone asked if I thought that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, I would say yes, and refer them to Vincent Bugliosi's exhaustive account of the assassination.

"OK," you might say, "but doesn't the subsequent killing of Oswald by Jack Ruby make you think that maybe there was a conspiracy, and consequently, maybe the garbage is being picked up today?"

"Well," I'd say, "an examination of Ruby's activities that day shows a chaotic and unplanned series of events that suggest otherwise, while the garbage schedule is rigorous and tightly defined. It has one exception: the week following a three-day weekend, the pickup is always one day later."

"I read on the internet that Ruby's low-level mob connections made him a perfect patsy to take out the trash, in a manner of speaking."

"You cannot believe something just because it's on the internet. Anyway, let me call up the collection date schedule on the city's website."

That's what I did, in my car, idling in the middle of the street. Because even though I knew garbage day was tomorrow, the sight of all my neighbors' bins was unnerving. Ah: I was correct. It was tomorrow. I drove on.

A few blocks later, I saw that every house had their bins out. But now I was in a different neighborhood, where perhaps the pickup normally was yesterday, in which case today was the right day.

That led me to ponder: What was that like, having a Thursday pickup? We Friday pickup people have a happy weekend vibe when we take out the trash the previous evening, but for these people, it's just the last sad chore at the end of Hump Day.

Then it struck me that roving gangs of thieves might look at our house and think no one's home. Everyone else has the bins out, these guys must be on vacation.

I stopped again and made sure the security system was activated. It was. I had motion detection notifications turned off, though, because we have a robin family that was building a nest in the gazebo, and they set off the detectors with all their comings and goings. I have a hundred little film clips of nothing happening, but I decided to reactivate it in light of the great garbage can confusion.

I took my lunch in the office building's lobby, which I'm sure has security cameras galore, and they probably saw me check my phone every 90 seconds because I got a motion-detection notification. They might have assumed that my spouse had been kidnapped, and I was getting text messages from the criminals. If a security guard had asked me if everything was OK, I would've laughed and said "It's fine. Everyone put the bins out on the wrong day, so I'm dealing with excess robin detection."

"OK, have a nice day."

I did have a nice day. At sunset I hauled out the bins, trying to look nonchalant. I was correct about the pickup day, but I didn't want to flaunt it. The next day the emptied bins were not only placed with the handles facing out, they were practically in the street, because someone wasn't thrilled about working on a Saturday.

We'll go through this again after July 4th. I'll see the bins, check the online schedule, tell myself I'm right, and if the wife asks why everyone else's bins are out and ours aren't, I'll just note that the Warren Commission's desire to impose a simple narrative doesn't mean the narrative was incorrect, and besides, the robins are gone.

If she nods, it'll mean she read this column. If she doesn't, that'll be the week they turn around the bins so the handles face my way.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks