Wednesday, July 29 2020

buckets of dirt and a trip to the quarry

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Wednesday. Today, I hope we all find enough gas in the tank to re-ignite the engine and carry us to the weekend. Or at least to Thursday.

Sip. Let me tell you about the buckets of dirt in our garage. A few weeks ago when we re-did the stone pavers along our driveway, we were left with a big pile of leftover dirt. Still dripping in sweat from the long day's work, we deliberated on what to do with it.

"Can we just throw it in the garbage?" asked Marissa.

"I think it would be too heavy," I said. "I could smuggle it into the garbage a few scoops at a time, but I'm kind of tired of doing that."

I had the sneaking suspicion that our garbage workers were on to me, anyway. One week, they left a flier stapled to my empty can, and they had highlighted a part of a flier that said no dirt or yard waste. It could have just been the handful of dandelions Marissa threw on top of the pile, but I didn't want to take any more chances.

"What are you supposed to do with dirt anyway?" asked Marissa.

Early Internet research failed to turn over anything convincing. "We could put an ad online, or take it to a nursery..." My voice trailed off, skimming through the web page.

"It's mostly clay," said Marissa. "I can't imagine anyone would be interested in it. What if I just drive it out to the country and dumped it on the side of the road?"

"I think that's dumping, and it's illegal," I said, wagging a righteous finger in the air. "I'm sure we could get away with it. But at this point, for me this is more about finding the absolute, most responsible, most correct way to dispose of dirt."

"I'm already surprised at how difficult this is," said Marissa.

"Me too," I added. "I'm kind of losing faith in society."

Marissa called the recycling center, who redirected her to the streets division, who redirected her to the land fill, who gave her an unlisted number to a local quarry.

"There is a quarry on Milwaukee street, just five minutes from our house," said Marissa, setting her phone on the table.

"A quarry," I repeated. "Like in the Flintstones? I didn't know there was a quarry around here."

Rodney and I headed outside, dragging the heavy buckets out of the shed. A week prior, I had covered them with plastic garbage bags to keep the mosquitos away. Rodney watched as I lugged each bucket to the curb to drain off the rain water, then together we hoisted the buckets into the car. After packing up the dogs and getting Miles into his car seat, we were off in search of the quarry.

The GPS guided us to a part of the neighborhood that felt strange. With hesitation, Marissa turned through an unmarked fence gate on a dirt side road. Rodney gawked at the ranks of dump trucks and excavators parked beside towering piles of rock and gravel. We cautiously slowed the car to a halt beside two burly, tanned, tattooed workers, stopping mid conversation to cast a judgemental glance at our white CRV, packed with kids and decked out with Corgi agility swag.

"Excuse me," said Marissa rolling down the car window. "I... um, brought some dirt that I was hoping to leave here." Without turning toward us, one of the workers pointed his meaty arm at a small shed further down the road. "Weigh station's over 'dere," he said gruffly.

"It doesn't feel at all like we're supposed to be here," chuckled Marissa.

"I'm getting the same vibe," I laughed. "Are normal people really supposed to do this?"

Our car crept up a narrow dirt road, stopping at the small shed, bearing a metal sun faded sign that said WEIGH STATION. There was a woman standing in front of the building. Hearing our car approach, her head shot up, and she quickly went inside.

"She just... disappeared," I laughed. A minute went by. "Is she coming out again?"

She leaned her head out the door. "Come to the window," she hollered.

"With... my car?" said Marissa through the passenger side window. The woman waved her up, and Marissa climbed out of the driver seat, approaching the window on foot. Rodney and I watched the woman hand Marissa some paper work, and Marissa wrote a check.

"Twenty bucks is the minimum dumping fee," said Marissa, climbing back into the car. "She said we need to go to the general dumping zone."

"Where is that?" I asked.

"She gave me a map," laughed Marissa. "We just follow this road. And she said it will be a giant hole in the ground like the grand canyon. She also said to watch out for dump trucks."

We carefully navigated our car further up the dirt road, weaving around ground plates, construction equipment, and dump trucks whizzing by. We found the general dumping area.

"Want some help?" asked Marissa.

"Nah, I got it," I said, affixing my mask and climbing out of the car. Before I got to work, I clambered to the top of the mound of rocks. Marissa gave me a worried look through the car windshield. I shrugged, and took a selfie.

quarry selfie

I'm going to tell my kids this is the grand canyon.

Luckily, I finished my embarrassing tourist antics before a dump truck pulled up beside us. I did my best to act like I belonged there, dumping our orange buckets along the side of the heap. The dirt piles looked so small and insignificant, especially knowing all the trouble we had gone through.

"So that was fun," I said climbing back into the car. "It seemed like a lot for normal people like us with dirt disposal needs, but I'm proud we did the right thing."

"This place is so overwhelming," said Marissa, nervously swerving to avoid another dump truck barreling towards us. "Now I need to figure out how to get out of here."

"Oh, luckily we have a map," I laughed.

"I don't need the map," laughed Marissa.

Getting rid of garbage is a great feeling. All week, those buckets of dirt festered in my concerns just as much as they festered in our shed. And perhaps the Lord of the Rings marathon we just finished is skewing my perspective, but I felt a little like Frodo Baggins. Only instead of a treacherous Mount Doom and a magical ring of power, our mountain was the strange bureaucracy of waste disposal, our burden was a few filthy buckets of dirt.

Thanks for stopping by today. Stop throwing dirt in the garbage, and maybe go visit the local quarry instead.