I used to love going to the town dump. Not anymore, though, and if you stick around, I’ll tell you why.
When I was a kid, my mother used to go to the dump a few times a month. I always wanted to go. In those days, you would pull up to the top of a hill and just throw all your stuff down the hill. There were no attendants or “dump police,” and so you could wander down the hill and grab all the good stuff other people were throwing away. You wouldn’t believe the treasures a twelve-year-old could find. The dump was where I got my first baseball glove and bat. I grabbed old chairs I could use for my fort in the woods near my house. There was an ancient tube radio that I snatched so I could take it home and try to fix it. I never did fix that thing, and I ended up bringing it back to the dump on another trip so some other kid cleverer than me could try. My mom had a giant Ford Country Squire station wagon that we could always fill up with more stuff than we’d brought, and many times my mother was kind enough to indulge me.
In college, my girlfriend (who later become my wife) and I furnished our tiny one-bedroom apartment with stuff we’d discovered at the dump. One time I found an antique cobbler’s bench, which I refinished. It became a fixture in our living room for many years, and I suspect she still has it. At least it was still there when I left, and she has as much trouble throwing stuff out as I do. Together we found clocks, paintings, kitchen stuff, and small antique decorations of all kinds. This was fortunate, because at the time I was earning the princely sum of 89¢ per hour. It took an entire hour of work to buy one bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine back then, and that was the good stuff. We never went to a furniture store because our store was from Ye Olde Towne Dump!
Years later, when we were living in the town of Dennis on Cape Cod, I would go to the dump every Sunday, not so much to get rid of our trash, but to see what treasures were being abandoned by other, less frugal folks. Now Dennis really had their you-know-what together. You would drive around and drop your trash off in the proper dumpsters and finally, truck empty, you could pull up to the recycling area, which was my favorite spot.
They had one giant shed that was only for magazines and books! I would grab the latest issues of any magazine that caught my eye. It didn’t matter how many I took, because any that I didn’t read or want to keep I could just bring back the next week for someone else to bring home and annoy their wife. Books, books, books. Oh my lord, the books! Boxes upon boxes and piles and piles of books of every description. I would literally bring home a box or two every week, and I never brought any back. I had a four-car garage where I built shelves just to hold all these books I was never actually going to read. We didn’t have much money back then, but when I went into the garage and looked at all my books, I felt rich. Eventually, when we moved to another part of the state, I packed up all my treasured books and brought them back to the dump. The dump giveth and the dump taketh away.
Today, the dump just isn’t any fun anymore. It’s far too well organized for a rebel like me. Put your cardboard in this bin, but not just any cardboard—only corrugated cardboard. Regular cardboard goes in another bin. Glass in this bin, but only clear glass. Colored glass has its own bin. Paper goes in the bin in the middle, and plastic in the bin on the end, but only Number 2 plastic. Other plastic goes in a different bin. The Lovely Louise now goes to the dump without me because she knows how frustrated I get. Sometimes I try to sneak some non-corrugated cardboard into the corrugated cardboard bin just to thumb my nose at “the Man.”
“The Man” who ran the dump a little while ago was Glenn, a friend from high school. It was sort of a game with me to see if Glenn could catch me dumping in the wrong bin. He never did, because I’m far too sneaky.
Back when I was a kid, after dumping all your stuff you could head over to the Swap House where you could check out the good stuff that other people didn’t want anymore. That was the place for me. Every time I went there were half a dozen retired guys waiting to see what people were unloading from their cars and trucks. They would jump up and grab stuff right out of people’s hands, and great arguments would inevitably break out. Well, not anymore. Eventually the dump won’t let them just sit in front of the Swap House anymore … but I still don’t like it.
It seems typical to me of the way the government is trying to take all the joy out of my life. First they get their act together and get the dump organized, and then what’s next? Health care that actually works?