If you are planning an outing to the Willits Waste Management Facility , you had best have your act together, or face the wrath of the Dump Deputies. I thought I was prepared; I thought I was on the right ramp; I thought I was doing the right thing, as I spilled my contractor bag’s paper contents into the humongous bin, but I was wrong. Oh, was I so wrong.
It was 9:02 AM on a Friday morning recently, when Annie backed up our little pickup to the base of the ramp leading up to two colossal recycling bins. The one on the right had a sign which read, “Cardboard Only” while the one on the left read, “Plastic, Tin, Full Stream” and nothing else. Glass went into different bins.
Not seeing a sign specifically for paper, I erroneously assumed that paper went into the “cardboard only” bin, an assumption which seems to prove the old adage, “Never assume; you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”
There were two men on the walkway above who had been observing me as I had climbed the ramp, seemingly engaged in not much of anything. They were dressed in those stylish blue coveralls that service folks always seem to wear, with identifying industry names stitched somewhere on the front.
The one with the black bushy mustache and piercing black eyes to match his voice, had bellowed out, “Good morning!” to which I had responded, “The top of the morning to you!” while hoisting my cargo of paper up and over the rim. I was careful to hang on tightly to the plastic bag because those two “enforcement personnel” were paying meticulous attention to me, and I knew that the plastic bag did not belong in the bin. Neither did the paper, apparently.
“SIR! CAN YOU READ?”
I have a masters in English but comprehension would appear to be the issue.
There being no one else to whom the inquiry could be aimed but me, I responded, “Yes, I can,” and waited expectantly for the hammer to fall.
“THEN WHY DID YOU JUST PUT PAPER IN THIS BIN?”
It’s a good thing there was still a couple of yards between us so that I was able to avoid the spray. Is this a trick question? Here’s your sign... He just saw me dump the paper in. I guess “cardboard only” means... Let’s see how egotistical these guys want to get.
“Because I thought it was the right bin? My bad. Obviously it’s not. I am abjectly apologetic for the transgression.”
“THE SIGN SAYS ‘CARDBOARD ONLY.’ Why did you put paper in the cardboard only bin?”
“Because I thought it was the right one?” I asked innocently. “Where I normally dump my recycling, all paper goods go in the same bin, whether it’s paper or cardboard,” I explained. While accurate, it still sounded lame.
Why do I think this is not going to suffice? This guy’s just getting revved up...
The bellicose one stalked past me, positioning me between himself and the second of the two attendants, and pointed authoritatively at the sign which read, well, you know what it read. “Here is the sign. Does it say anywhere on here that paper is OK to dump into THIS bin?” His eyes were bulging, his face was mottled and he was in his element.
I stood on tip-toe and peered over the top of the bin and down into it; it was empty except for what I had just dumped in. “Would you like me to retrieve the paper?” I asked sincerely, though that would certainly not have been possible.
The indignant one looked as though I had punched him. “No, that will not be necessary.”
How nice for me. At 63 I do not have to acquire wings to be able to fly any higher than I normally do.
“I just do NOT understand how you could have made that mistake,” he flamed on.
Take me out and have me shot, already. What does this guy want?
“Yes, I understand that you are having a difficult time this morning. Let me help you out. I see this sign which reads cardboard only. I see this sign which reads tin, plastic, and nothing else. Where is the sign for paper?”
Pompously he thrust a finger out at the phrase, Full-Stream. “What do you think that means?”
What it usually means, Bub, not that it’s any of your concern, is that I am having a conversation with my doctor, so shut the...never mind. I had rocketed from annoyed to enraged in a nano-second.
“WHERE IS THE SIGN THAT READS PAPER?”
And I left, taking the rest of my truckload of recycling to a different facility, one that did not include employees who felt it necessary to harangue customers, especially ones who may not be as familiar with the lingo of the dump as he should be.
I composed an email to the company in question, explaining the situation that had occurred, but I did not get a response. I wasn’t expecting the heads of the two miscreants on a platter, but I was hoping for some assurance that it was not the company’s official policy to berate senior citizens. It’s a good thing I did not hold my breath waiting.
Meanwhile, I recognize that this incident does not paint a picture of a guy (me) who appears in total control of his faculties, but it was an honest mistake. I am probably the only adult in California who does not know what the term “full-stream” means in the lexicon of the dump, but that does not make me a criminal.
On the other hand, I’d rather appear out of my element when talking about control of his faculties, because of an unfamiliar phrase, than have control of my faculties questioned, because I felt it necessary to chastise customers of the company for which I worked, in an aggressive and intimidating manner.