The blue sky of a mild September morning vanished from sight as I climbed onto a chair and heaved my not-so-nimble body into the parking lot Dumpster at the Bangor Daily News.
Cruising Dumpsters is not a usual pastime for this 50-year-old woman – at least not on days I still can claim most of my mental marbles – but a sense of desperation had driven me to it.
For a few seconds, I pondered on the surreal events that had brought me to this point. My “Dumpster jump” was prompted by a search for my 12-year-old daughter’s nearly new glasses. The miniframes had been lost for nearly two days. Eliza recalled putting them down on the kitchen sideboard before washing her face on a Sunday night.
A wastebasket sits under that sideboard. It is a handy catchall for items that frequently fly off that location, aided by a cat’s paw or a kid’s careless swipe. When Eliza told me Monday night that she hadn’t seen her glasses for a day, I feared the worst because hours before I had lugged a white plastic bag of trash from our kitchen to the NEWS’ Dumpster.
It doesn’t take the most analytical person to figure that the company Dumpster sometimes is a receptacle for trash that doesn’t come from the bowels of the newspaper. In my case, the Dumpster was an aide in my attempt at animal control. Skunks and wandering cats seem to love the leftovers that patiently sit in my garbage all week. They often beat the garbage collector to the mother lode, strewing chicken bones and indescribable stuff in their wake. So I hauled a full bag to work one Monday and found myself gingerly tromping through the stuff 24 hours later.
A friendly guy from the office brought me a rake. He informed me the Dumpster was scheduled to be emptied that day.
I made the sign of the cross and said a prayer to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items. Then I put on some snappy yellow Playtex gloves and dug in.
Flies buzzed. Traffic whizzed by on Main Street, causing me to jump. Colleagues left for lunch, turning their heads in disbelief as they emerged from the news building and spotted a frazzled reporter, in office dress and sneakers, waist high in waste, hurling garbage bags left and right.
I prayed no photographers were around.
I really don’t recall what I dug into. Item by item, things flew by as I tossed bags, then broken bags, then meal leftovers to one side. A Kentucky Fried Chicken box, and empty yet smelly cat food cans stick in my mind. Some idiot had thrown a used coffeepot into the mix. The heavy item had ruptured the Wal-Mart trash bag I had thrown in, making the search even more unsavory. No matter. I turned into a digging machine. The hunt was on for a pair of $250 glasses, and I wasn’t about to leave that waste-container-from-hell until I had found them or was certain they had not been in the garbage bag I had so blithely tossed there the day before.
“I hope you find it,” one colleague said cheerily. She later admitted thinking I had lost more than one board in the attic. I knew what Topic A would be around the coffeepot that afternoon. I peeked out frequently, hoping a recycling truck did not have a pair of huge tongs hovering above, ready to hurl me and a ton of trash to oblivion.
I thought of comedienne Lucille Ball stomping grapes with her bare feet in a vintage “I Love Lucy” episode.
I thought of my mother, who often got into semi-hysterical scrapes at annual teacher’s conventions.
Yet I pressed on.
The tab for the glasses had been picked up by my insurance the first time around. Money for a second pair would have to come out of my pocket. My burdened credit cards could not take the pressure, so I opted to find the darn things whatever the cost to personal dignity.
My active prepubescent daughter had worn the glasses for 10 days before they disappeared. Possessing 20/100 vision, which means she can’t see the broad side of a barn, Eliza took to them right away. She daily washed those glasses held snug in their plum-colored frames. The frames are tiny and plain, a unisex style that is “in” said the Pearle Vision clerk as she deftly placed them on Eliza’s face. Their smallness doesn’t make them stand out prominently on her face and certainly wouldn’t make them stand out if they were in that pile of trash.
That night we found the glasses, not in the Dumpster but in Eliza’s bedroom. They were under, way under, her night stand, probably landing there in a dazed nocturnal attempt to tuck them into the glasses case on top of the stand
We were both ecstatic, except Eliza now calls me “D.Q.” – “Dumpster Queen.”
Nancy Garland covers U.S. District Court in Bangor and writes a biweekly adoption column at the Bangor Daily News.