You know it’s time for a change, when you find yourself standing in disbelief at something that you have just witnessed. Worst yet, something that you have just done. I had me one of those moments a few weeks ago…
It was 5am and I had just finished stocking one of my customers and am ready to leave the store. I put my glasses in their case, and place them in the bag that holds my work computer. The bag is shaped like a ridged lunch box. It is canvas, with a small receipt printer on the outside and a large cavity for the hand-held computer and just about anything else I want, i.e. my glasses, on the inside. It has a flap to cover the top which rarely gets used, unless it’s raining. I pick up my bag and some garbage that I need to dispose of and leave the store.
I take my trash to the dumpster in the alley beside the store. The sun had not risen yet, and there is little light in the alley. As usual the lid is down on the dumpster. I lift it with my left hand, the one holding my bag. It doesn’t need to go up that high, just enough for me to put my trash in. I felt it, before I heard it…
What I felt, was the bag catch on the lip of the dumpster and the contents inside the bag move. What I heard, was something falling out. I quickly drop the lid and the garbage, and reach inside the bag. I can’t see a thing but I feel my work computer right away but what I don’t feel, is my glass case. A dozen F-Bombs come flying from my lips!
I lift the lid on the dumpster so it is fully open. Just so we are clear, this is not a garbage can. This is an industrial grade trash unit and it is full. I reach over the lip and gingerly touch around in the hope that the glasses may have been caught by a piece of cardboard near the top. Nothing. More F-Bombs!
I was never much of a climber when I was a kid, trees or chain-link fences. I’m almost 60 now!!! The bin is six feet high on the sides and back, and slants down to a five-foot front. The only footing is at the side where there is a steel slot for the trucks to fork into to empty the bin and collect the waste. I put my foot in this slot and hoist myself up, over, and into the dumpster. I am well back of where I believe my glasses may be, standing on cardboard and God know what, four feet higher than I want to be. I start to dig my way down and forward.
You don’t need the blow by blow. Suffice it to say, that even though there was a large amount of cardboard, the excavation also involved discarded food and half-consumed beverage containers. It would have been gross in daylight, but was even worse in darkness at five o’clock in the morning. After, as Honey would have said, “a shit-ton” of F-Bombs, I finally get my feet planted on the bottom of the can. There is almost no light and I am thinking to myself that this search would be so much easier… if I had my FN glasses on!!! Before you decide to comment and ask me why I didn’t get out my cell phone and use it to illuminate the situation, I did think of that… right after I was in the dumpster and realized it was in my truck!!
I stay to the edge of the dumpster and move the garbage to the back of the can to clear my path. I finally spot the glass case near the front corner of the can. It is a white hard-shelled case, and it lies open. My glasses aren’t there! I react like any sane person would, I freeze instantly for fear that any movement might accidently cause them to get broken, and repeatedly whisper F-Bombs. I can’t see anything so I squat down and retrieve the glass case. It is covered in some kind of grime, but it is too dark to tell what. It is like a dry powder. I probe the area around where the case fell. Hope and logic, tell me that the glasses most-likely exited the case upon impact with the bottom of the trash bin. The fact that the case is old and held together with duct-tape does not matter to me at this moment. I believe that in a moment of crisis, that my old duct-taped glass case will have stepped up and preformed its duty in life flawlessly, at least right up to the point of impact. Sometimes you need to have some faith to get through.
Sure enough, I find the glasses within six-inches of where the case had landed. They are uninjured. They too are covered in some kind of grime. I climb back up the mountain of garbage and exit the garbage bin. I am covered in the same grime as the glasses and case. It’s on my skin and clothes. I climb into my truck, proceed to my next account and upon arrival, go directly to the bathroom. I wet some paper-towel and start wiping myself down. The glasses and case are cleaned. The grime I am covered in has turned out to be rust from the inside of the dumpster. It must flake off onto everything that goes inside the bin, which today included me.
After 34 years on the same job, this was a first. Never before have I had to climb into a dumpster to retrieve anything. Considering that I discard waste in dumpsters and compactors (you don’t climb into those ever) numerous times throughout my work day, I have never dropped anything that I didn’t want to go in. That’s probably close to 30,000 dumpster drops! Not once has anything accidently gone into one! Sure, I’ve had to burrow through the home garbage can because I have dropped keys or thrown out important documents, but never a full-fledged waste disposal unit on the job!! The time has come for a change.
What more could there possibly be left to happen to me on this job? What is left to do until I can say I’ve done it all? Don’t even try to use the word “flush” with me, that happened three decades ago compliments of my oldest son. No, this has got to be my final career accomplishment. The one that I didn’t know I needed.
Dumpster diving at 5am… check.