There was a time when driving to the dump was high entertainment. It was a multi-media event. You could sell tickets. They did.
When I was a little girl, my dad let me ride along on trips to the city dump. That was back when they did dumps right. He drove his giant pickup truck up the dirt slopes to the area where backhoes and tractors were creating a lovely series of canyons to fill. You paid your five bucks and backed up to the smelly pile of refuse and added your own trash to it. I would sit in the cab, head hanging out the window, and watch in fascination as people lined up and started throwing items into the growing heap. Sometimes my dad would empty his load and then toss in someone else’s donations.
“Look at this,” he’d say, “they just threw out a perfectly good chair.” Now it was ours.
The smell at a dump is unique and tangy. It fills your sinuses with something between compost and dead cat. The tractors keep things percolating so it doesn’t get out of hand. The sounds of diesel engines and seagulls fill the air. Seagulls will scavenge anywhere and eat almost anything. While you would be hard pressed to find rats in the constantly shifting landmass, the birds thrive.
When it was time to go home, I sat on dad’s lap and steered the truck while he worked the pedals. Six-year-olds are welcome to drive at the dump. Everything’s already destroyed.
They just don’t make dumps like they used to.
Excuse me. “Disposal facilities”.
Trash is now sorted inside of three-story concrete bunkers where the seagulls can’t see it, and while you must still remove items from your truck yourself, you are encouraged to dump and run. No time to linger and enjoy the show. To get a nice deep whiff of that wonderful pungent tart and sour air.
I looked over to the hazardous waste area. Workers in gloves and coveralls tossed giant TVs, computer keyboards, empty propane cylinders, and…hey! that’s the exact same bread machine I have! The one that makes your loaves square instead of round. Someone tossed it? What a waste.
I mean…I guess waste is the idea here. Waste disposal. Got it. Don’t have to like it though.
Watching them work was like watching the Three Stooges pack for a move. They were doing something I have always wanted to do: take that machine that just broke on me in the middle of something super important and THROW IT ACROSS THE PAVEMENT WATCHING IT BURST INTO TINY SHATTERED BITS OF SORRY.
And these guys are getting paid to do it. Awesome.
They are the only thing standing between us and the Dark Ages.
The recycling facility next to trash collection sorted plastics from metals from paper. Conveyor belts carted them into the air and spit out bundles at the other end, five feet cubed. Some cubes were crushed milk jugs, abstract art; white with bits of random color. Soda cans came out impossibly interlinked, a cube of shiny aluminum brilliance. It was fascinating.
Management shooed me away from their art gallery and for all I know, saved my life in the process.
I came away with some favorite thoughts:
- I am re-confirmed in my opinion that, in this large living America, less is still more. So much of our trappings are disposable. Simply outdated, unused, or unloved. Less things. Try not to have so much in the first place.
- The recycle idea is wonderful. Re-gift. Re-purpose. Don’t toss it, see if someone else can use your bread machine. Shop at thrift stores. Donate freely. Circulate your stuff. Sharing is caring.
- It is deeply satisfying to watch old homework, random junk mail, and nasty utility bills get thrown across the room one. more. time.