Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The dump and the lost and the found

Yesterday I went to the town dump.

I live in a town where--despite fairly hefty property taxes--we don't have garbage collection. I'm not sure why, but my guess is that there's some sort of ethos here that garbage isn't esthetically pleasing enough; all those cans and bags by the road tend to spoil the bucolic charm. And the town dump is supposedly a happy place where everyone meets and greets, although I can't say I've seen too much of that. Also, I hear tell that the richer among us (that's not me!) hire private garbage collectors to do their dirty work for them.

Even though I've lived in New England for most of my adult life, this was the first place I'd ever resided in that didn't have garbage pickup. At first I was a bit miffed--after all, what were those high property taxes all about? I don't have kids any more in the school system, even though I see the need to support it--so I figured I should at least be getting garbage collection for my pains.

But now I'm used to the rhythm of my visits to the dump. If I've had guests and the garbage piles up faster and it's hot out, I can make more frequent visits. It's vaguely relaxing and mindless work, sorting things out; and I also enjoy the sense of making a clean sweep and a fresh start every time I return home and see those momentarily empty recycling bins of mine.

At the dump there's a complex system of carefully labeled containers, telling us what goes in where and what doesn't go in where, with so Byzantine a set of rules that an attorney might be of assistance in deciphering them (and perhaps dump law is a new legal specialty, for all I know). There's an area where you can bring the sort of waste that's good for compost, which they then make and sell to raise money; and there's a huge pile of brush and one of scrap and one of concrete and one of batteries and one of--well, you get the idea.

And the dump has a few more perks. There's a Goodwill bin that I visit regularly in an attempt to simplify my life. And then there's the car vacuum machine.

And here I have a confession to make--I sometimes procrastinate at the task of cleaning my car. Yes, I do; indeed I do. But going to the dump and passing by that large suction hose reminds me to look down and notice that, now that mud season is over and it's truly summer, there's a lot of debris in my car that could use some getting rid of.

Vacuuming the car is one of the most satisfying tasks of all. First, I clear out all the odd papers and place them in a bag, to be sorted out when I get home. This requires moving the seats and crawling down under them to find the wealth of paper that has somehow, unbeknownst to me, found its way there. Then, put the coins in the machine (four quarters these days, and I've found it accepts Canadian!) and off to the races.

Because the vacuum is timed, there's a sense of urgency to beat the clock, a nice game to play. Floors, cushions, little cracks in between this and that, even the trunk; can I fit it all in? Yes and yes and yes.

And now the inside of my car looks, if not new, certainly newer.

Afterwards, though, sorting out the papers at home (most of them worthless scrap), I found a stamped envelope addressed to the state but unmailed. Not good. I had the sinking feeling that I knew what it was and, opening it, discovered that I was correct.

Speaking of property taxes--inside was a note I'd written three weeks ago that was part of the process of applying for a partial property tax refund that I seem to be entitled to. It was supposed to have arrived at the state office by July 15. I'd filled it out and sealed it and stamped it and put it in the car as I do with all my mail, but somehow it had slipped under the seat and not been posted with all its fellows. And I never noticed till now.

I called the state office involved, and the woman I spoke with suggested I send it to them with a note of explanation. I have no idea whether I'll still get that rebate I'd been counting on and very much looking forward to, though.

The moral[s] of the story: go to the dump more often? Clean out your car more often? Quit your complaining? Be more careful? Don't sweat the small stuff? All will be well in the end? The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley? There's no way to beat death and taxes, even if you try? Mama said there'd be days like this? There's no business like show business?

At any rate, it's a nice respite from talking about war all the time.

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