Part 3: I am a grossed out lady
A zippy truck horn tweeted me from outside the reception desk.
“Your chariot awaits,” said Jennifer the receptionist with a chuckle.
After arriving at the transfer center, I found myself sitting on a hard plastic chair in the lobby of San Francisco Recology. Also known as the House of Jennifer. Jennifer is the doyenne of THE DUMP, and has been its gatekeeper for 23 years. She is funny. She is intent. She is sympathetic. And she is very kind. Especially to idiot girls who throw away meaningful jewelry.
As my tale of woe came tumbling out, she fixed me a cup of coffee, introduced me to some other DUMP ladies, and nodded and gasped at all the right parts of my story. It’s one thing to be a good hostess over great wine and dinner at your own home, but I’m a tell you what – it’s amazing when you can be a good hostess, nay, a great hostess, at THE DUMP, and Jennifer totally was.
“Joseph is gonna take you out to the landing pad, so just go on now and see how you do,” Jennifer said as she directed me out the automatic doors. “I just know you are going to find that ring, I just know it.”
I nodded bravely as the doors slid open and out into the parking lot. Cool office air gave way to a special blend of fog and wet dirt and garbage, and I tightened my trench coat and hitched up my Kate Spade bag as I walked.
“Are you the girl?” Joseph asked with one eyebrow up.
“Uh-huh,” I said, shaking his hand. “I’ll apologize right now, this seems like a crazy mission.”
“Well we just see what we can do,” he said, adjusting his orange vest as he kicked the truck into gear. “We just see.”
The truck trundled along as Joseph pointed out the parts of the trash cycle.
“This here is where we dump it, aaand this over here is where we sort it. And this over here is where we crush it!” he said gleefully. Joseph is a man who, it is evident, loves his job. As someone who also loves their job, I think that’s dandy.
“And this here is where we gonna search it,” he said as we pulled up inside a massive warehouse, next to a three-story pile of trash. That’s right, a small municipal building sized pile of gross.
I ducked out of the truck and stepped immediately into a pile of something foul. Thank God for rainboots.
“Hey Steve!” he yelled to the man in the caterpillar as I daintily picked my way over to the pile. Steve and Joseph made eye contact, and then Joseph waved like Miss America, only sideways and with slightly more flamboyance, and Steve used his enormous caterpillar claw and spread out the massive pile into a single layer of crap the size of a tennis court.
I tried to think of it as not crap, but instead, a treasure trove just waiting to yield up my ring! Happy thoughts!
It did not work.
It was still a giant layer of crap.
And I still had to search through it.
I looked at Joseph. He looked at me. I looked at the crap layer. He looked at me. We looked at the crap together for a moment long enough for a plastic bag to biodegrade.
Nobody spoke. Nobody moved.
After eternity passed and I had just psyched myself up enough to approach the pile, Joseph started laughing.
“Oh girl you know we gonna get some guys over here to help you out!” And with a whistle, four trash men came hustling over and starting sifting through the crap layer.
“It’s in a Macy’s bag,” I yelled over the noise of the trucks.
“It has a giant red star on it!” I revised.
And so we started.
They sifted, I supervised. They tore through mail, kitchen sacks, coffee grounds and much worse while I circled the periphery like the seagulls overhead, eyes akimbo waiting for the moment – THE moment – when my trash bag would magically rise from the depths of all the shit in the Presidio.
It didn’t come, that moment.
After 20 minutes, I was ready to call off the search. I mean, these men were picking through the trash for me. They’re trash men after all, so it’s not too much of a stretch, but still. I know when I’m being a pain in the ass and for about how long I can get away with it. My time was running out.
I looked at Joseph with doleful eyes, and he looked back at me like, Girl, what did you possibly expect coming out here? and I looked at him like I know, I KNOW.
And then Jose, a sweet young-ish trash man, yelled out from the middle of the crap layer, “Wait, here’s a star bag – could this be it?”
And you guys, I am not even kidding you, he held up a tied Macy’s bag like it were made of solid gold, and gently walked it out to me. Jesus walked on water. Jose walked on trash.
It was a miraculous sight.
I shook off the bag and dumped it onto the pavement. Amid dirty kleenex, opening night ticket stubs, and pink post-it notes in a scrawly cursive that I know too well, was the infamous Forever 21 bag.
“This is my TRASH!” I yelled to Jose, who just laughed. “I’ve never been so excited in my entire LIFE to see my own TRASH!”
Triumphantly, I pulled out the bag, and then the ring.
As the guys high-fived and hugged, I slid it onto my finger and thought of how lucky I am. And much I owed these guys breakfast. And how funny this would all be, after I had showered thoroughly.
And then I realized that I’m not just an idiot girl who throws away meaningful jewelry any longer.
Now I am an idiot girl with one hell of a story.