Taking a trip to the dump

Stuff builds up. So quickly it goes unnoticed at times — time being what it is. Then, one day, what should have been obvious but somehow wasn’t becomes apparent.

This time, it wasn’t a quick gathering; rather, a slow accumulation of time’s markers and life’s sweepings, but to the same effect — too much stuff lying around. I couldn’t find my way through all the cast off commitments.

Time to clean house; to gather together old New Year’s resolutions, rubble, refuse, careless thinking remnants, and secure a billet on a garbage truck heading west. Making room, at last, for new pursuits and dedications: dark chocolate, a diet conducive to its consumption, truth, touch, shared smiles, and the trio’s promise of a better day.

So, that’s what I did — boarded a Jewell’s Disposal truck skippered by Jason Jewell. He’s navigated this course before. What could be more liberating than booking passage on a conveyance that accepts expired resolutions, dashed expectations, negative thoughts, and false contemplations guided by a man who knows exactly where he’s going — a landfill that takes this stuff by the ton?

All that, but first this:

If you can pick up a thousand used pumpkins — carved and not — and dispose of them all in a single day, lift bag after bag of dog offal, kitty litter, and disposable diapers, chase unbaled styrofoam as it blows along its way away, scale snow drifts to recover cans of garbage inexplicably placed there, returning them to where they can be easily retrieved …

If you can avoid hypodermic needles sticking through plastic bags mixed with the innocence of household trash, move glass that cuts through sleeves, cuffs, and pant legs without yourself being cut, wipe away the spray from a once-filled jug now compacted …

If, with trash can in hand, you can maneuver around an early-morning runner not yet aware of the parameters in his day, redirect a bicycle peddler, head down viewing handles, whose handle on a finite existence was about to be compressed, if you can excuse automobile drivers any time of day, all day — for oh so much.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, wait, but not get tired of waiting, walk with kings but keep a common touch, collect the world’s trash without complaining — too much …

If you can do all that, then yours is the earth and everything that’s in it. And — what’s more — you’ll be a garbage man, my son.

Still, there are those who, from one egocentric perspective or another, believe they are superior to the men and women responsible for carrying away our leavings. Such people should know this: There are two front-steering tires on every garbage truck. Jewell’s runs seven trucks. Each steering tire costs $850 and every one of them has to be replaced every six months — do the math. Diesel fuel in vast quantities must be purchased and paid for no matter the price. Counting the owners — Jason, Leigh Ann, and Linda — Jewell’s Disposal meets a payroll of 14 people each and every week.

Taxes are paid, bugs removed from windshields.

Now, an elderly lady moves slowly down her driveway with an apple. Sometime later, there will be fresh-baked cookies and people smiling while waving a salute. Some understanding motorist, somewhere along the route, will give up his right-of-way to wait, knowing what that wait is worth to a big, old garbage truck.

Let me leave you with this question: Why do people throw away plastic bottles full of water? Why don’t people drink that water, or use it to water their plants, or wash behind their dog’s ears? Why do people take up precious room in a landfill with bottles of water when that space is better-suited to old resolutions, dashed expectations, negative thoughts, and false contemplations?

Disposing of that anguish will make room for truth, touch, the sharing of our smiles — the dawning of a better day — and chocolate.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs biweekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.