Herbie Hancock and Tina Turner record a Joni Mitchell song, Edith and the Kingpin, perfect for the city at night. Or anywhere at night. Or anywhere at all.
I love going to the dump. Even when I don’t want to go the dump – when it’s 4 degrees out and I can’t feel my fingers or it’s blazing hot and the stench is enough to knock me over – the journey is always instructive, and often hilarious. People who have their trash picked up never understand the appeal of a dump run, never know the fun of being accosted by some intrepid soul running for electric light commissioner trying to scare up a few votes, the satisfaction of getting to push the button on the corrugated box crusher, the friendly waves of the dump guys in their orange tee shirts, or – best of all – the sweet voyeurism of viewing the outfits that people wear to get rid of their trash.
Most folks seem to go straight from bed to the garage to the dump, maybe stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. PJs, slippers, flip flops, and sweats that are way too big or too small are the uniform, unless of course it’s Saturday morning and everyone is in soccer stuff (watch out for the cleats). No shaving before going to the dump. It’s a rule.
There are a few people who come to socialize (they stand right in front of wherever it is I want to go and talk forever) but the standard rules of Main Street etiquette do not apply – if someone doesn’t make eye contact with you, they have the right to remain invisible. People I invite to our Christmas party might get only a nod at the dump, if that. It is a unique kind of personal space where you are practically required to be surly – it is the narcotic effect of the scent of rancid milk, stale beer, and wet cardboard.
But it’s not just the parade of fashion or the need to get rid of our trash that keeps me going back. I think I began loving Groton when I learned that the deposits that we don’t collect on the bottles and cans we bring to the dump are redeemed by the town and put toward the 4th of July fireworks display (they don’t do this every year, but they’ve done it several times). I learned this from the dump guys, and they are as happy in their work as anyone I have ever seen. And they are pretty enlightened for dump guys, too, not hesitating to correct you on your recycling habits and even going a bit farther. Today one of them greeted a man who pulled up in a pickup with his daughter in the front seat, and yelled in half mock horror “Is that a cigarette is see?! What’s the matter with you, smoking with your little girl in the truck! Don’t you know the dangers of second-hand smoke?” Unfazed, the Dad smiled and said “I have the window open – Jeez!” That wasn’t good enough. “Put it out, man, put it out now!” The guy got out of the truck, flicked the cigarette and came round the bed of the truck – to shake his friend’s hand. Then the little girl hopped out to go help push the button on the box crusher.
And of course there’s the trash itself. Is that a week’s or a year’s worth of Bud Light cans? Is this a throw each glass bottle as hard as you can day or a dump it all at once day? My boy takes a wine bottle and uses it as a bat to hit the seltzer cans into the bin (someone else is probably blogging about that). Do they really think they can put an entire gas grill in the tin can bin? If you can’t read the number of the bottom can you just guess? What do they do to people who don’t use the designated Town of Groton orange trash bags? Throw them in? And who made that airplane out of Pepsi cans?
Finally, the drive back and forth is a kind of barometer of how my week has gone. Am I going to the dump to people watch or because I absolutely must get out of the house? Is this the highlight of my day or an errand to run before moving on to better things? It is a sad testament to my spiritual life that I visit the dump more regularly than I do the Church, but the conversations I have with God on either pilgrimage is the same: I am thankful for my life, I pray for more patience and focus, and then I get rid of all my garbage and go home, lighter and better for having made the trip.