And it's not something I'm proud of.
In fact, it's not something I even realized that I did as often as I do. And it's gross. And coming from a person who will contort herself like a ninja when inside a public restroom in order to hit the flusher with my foot to save germs from touching my fingers, it's actually quite shocking.
But as I gazed into a grimy gas station garbage can today, I really got to thinking. Unfortunately for me, somewhere in that gelatinous heap of waste was my car keys. My car keys that I so casually dropped into the bin right along with a half-drank cup of luke-warm coffee and bunch of granola bar and gum wrappers that I finally cleaned out of my purse.
For a moment, I thought I had options. Maybe, just maybe, I could walk home for an extra set and just leave these keys rest in peace.
Then I realized: Hey, I've done this before. Sadly, I've done this a lot.
My hobby of dumpster diving began around the age of 12 or 13. It was the first summer that Pepsi began their Pepsi Point promotion and I wanted them bad! The idea was simple: Buy pepsi, collect points, and win stuff. My mother drank quite a lot of Diet Pepsi, but that wasn't adding up quickly enough. I wanted to collect enough for that Pepsi beach blanket and the Pepsi beach chair and the Pepsi baseball jersey and any other Pepsi anything I could get. I wanted it all. And I wanted it now. I was a like a junkie. I had to get that next point. And so I began reaching in at our softball games. Initially it just started where I'd skim the bottles off the top of the garbage can, peel off the label which housed the Point, and never reach to the "real" garbage below. But then....I did. Then I started to go a little further. It's so gross to think about now as an adult who carries around hand sanitzer everywhere I go. But I did it.
Thankfully, I grew up and matured (at least a little bit, I hope) and I stopped skimming through other people's trash to win frivolous things. But I dumpster dove again just a few years ago. This time, I don't think it was my fault. I had some relatives over for the holidays and we had decided to wrap gifts at the mall for charity and donate our tip money to the humane society. It was a slow day and we didn't raise much. But later that night, the $22 in tip money was nowhere to be found. We searched everywhere only to realize that we must have accidently thrown it out. This wouldn't be an issue for most people- simply walk to your curb and pull the bag back out of the trash can. However, I lived in a huge apartment complex where everyone tossed their trash into one giant dumpster. My dad said he would just give me the money we had pitched. Trying to find it was foolish (and gross), he said. And looking back, why didn't I just take it?
But instead, my mom and I bundled up (it's freezing here in Wisconsin in the winter), and with a ladder and flashlight in hand, we headed to the dumpster in the middle of the night. And I went in. Let me emphasize the fact that I climbed a ladder, in pitch darkness, and crawled into a dumpster. I did that for $22. I waded through god-knows-what and accidently opened quite a few other bags of trash before FINALLY finding the coveted prize. But I got it. And we made a few kitties happy at the shelter.
Which brings me back to the current problem at hand.
After standing there, staring into that garbage can with visions of my past dumpter diving indiscretions flashing before my eyes, I realized that these legs of mine.....in these heels of mine......were not going to be walking home. Nor was I willing to give up the 142 odd barcode keycards that have accumulated on my keyring over time. I know half of those tags probably belong to businesses and loyalty programs that no longer exist. But in the off chance that I still can use 1 of them, I had to do it. I had to go in. I had to suck it up and reach into that abyss.
But first I looked around to make sure the coast was clear.
Ok, ok, ok....I am soooooo lying right now. I actually did look around, but not to make sure the coast was clear. I was hoping to spot a man at the next pump that I could bat my eyelashes at and allow him to swoop in like a knight in shining armor to retrieve the keys for me. But I was alone.
So I scrunched up my face, let out a little squeal, and went for it.
I got them. But it wasn't easy.
And I wish I could say that I was making all of this up for the sake of a good story, but it's unfortunately true. And maybe they have meetings somewhere for people like me.
"Hi. My name is Laura. And I'm a dumpster diver."