Digging in the trash

Last weekend was a particularly busy one in the Swensen household. Among other things, Krista worked on Saturday morning and I did, too.

The University of Dayton School of Law’s graduation ceremony was being held at the UD Arena and I had responsibilities there I couldn’t shirk. Complicating matters rather significantly, Abby needed to be transported that same morning to Troy High School to take the SAT college entrance exam. Consequently, I dropped her off, attended the graduation and reception that followed, sprinted back up I-75 to pick up Abby at the conclusion of her exam, and returned to Greenville.

Later in the day there were additional tasks and activities, including playing chauffeur for a few attendees to the Greenville High School, 2019 Prom(enade). Very, very late that night (or very, very early the next morning, depending on your perspective), Krista and I discovered a certain valuable item in the household was missing and that there was a decent likelihood it had been inadvertently thrown in the trash Dumpster next to the garage. It was somewhere around 2:30 a.m. when we realized this, so we decided to get a few hours of sleep before commencing our intensive search.

Around 9 a.m. or so that morning I made one last sweep of the areas inside the house where the item might have been misplaced.

I didn’t relish spending an hour searching through our garbage to find this item, especially since (1) it struck me as highly unlikely that I’d find the item there, and (2) Krista had swept our back walkway a day or two before, and deposited the mud and soggy leaves in the trash. Thus, I was faced with the prospect of sifting through the mini-quagmire in my quest. Sigh.

After coming up empty on my cozy, comfy, indoor sweep, I donned a sweatshirt and laced up my shoes. Might as well get this over with, I surmised.

I walked outside and retrieved the large, brown Dumpster, rolling it to the center of our driveway. From its interior, I pulled out a couple of white, plastic trash bags and set them down. For reasons I need not discuss here, Krista and I figured that if the item had been thrown out, it was a virtual certainty it was in the dumpster with the loose trash rather than inside one of the bags. After setting aside all the trash bags, I tipped the Dumpster on its side and kneeled down to look inside. It was worse than I feared.

There was a significant amount of wet dirt and debris aggregated at the bottom. In order to execute my search properly, I would need to sift through all this “compost” one handful at a time, much like a 49er panning for gold. I pulled some of the gunk toward me and laid it on the black pavement. On my hands and knees, I spread it apart and felt for the (hard, solid) item among the decomposing leaves and jet-black silt, using my thumbs and index fingers extensively.

As I executed my task, dozens of earthworms scrambled away from my palms, ostensibly angered by the sudden, rude disruption of whatever it was they were doing or not doing.

As I felt a couple of the slimy creatures slither across my wrist I let out a reflexive “ekkkkk!” and continued my chore. I was exercising great care and concentration, so each sample of muck took a few minutes to inspect properly. On my 10th or 11th iteration I felt something firm and promising on my palm. Could this be the treasured item?!!? I delicately peeled away the grime, excitement building in my body. I was momentarily Indiana Jones, on the cusp of discovering a priceless, rare, long-lost Incan artifact!

Alas, it wasn’t to be. My solid item was an oddly shaped piece of mulch rather than an obscure and exquisite object d’art.

So it went, handful after handful of crap. By the very last morsel, I had found nothing of consequence and was resigned that I would have to transmit the bad news to Krista. I was steeling myself mentally, for I knew she would be disappointed. I groaned as I leaned my entire body into the dumpster and gathered the final handful. I spread it out and pinched. I pinched some more. Hmmm… what’s this? Can’t be. No way. I am not a lucky man. I never win anything (well, except for life’s truly important lotteries, but that’s another topic for another day). I root for Purdue and the Pittsburgh Pirates, for heaven’s sake.

And there it was. The lost and desired item! I was flabbergasted and ecstatic. Amazed and euphoric. Disbelieving and delirious. You get the idea. I was, for one beautiful moment, a conquering hero, a deliverer, a finder-of-lost-stuff, a successful trash digger!!

Harrison Ford never had it so good.


By Timothy Swensen

Virtue and Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected] Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.