Friday, July 18, 2008
Dottie the Dumpster Diver
By Richard E. Noble
Dottie lived in Eastpoint for a number of years. We don't know exactly when she got into Dumpster Diving but she developed a serious addiction.
If you have never done any Dumpster Diving yourself you wouldn't really understand.
My older brother became a chemist and he worked for a guy who owned a smelting plant. The man who owned the plant where my brother worked was the son of a ragman. Kirk Douglas wrote a book entitled The Ragman's Son. But my brother's boss was really a sophisticated ragman. Professional ragmen and scavengers of all types brought their collected radiators and bicycles and water heaters and copper wire to the plant where my brother was employed. My brother supervised the smelting process and turned the scrap metal into ingots that his boss sold to somebody. The ragman’s son who my brother worked for was a multi-millionaire.
Carol and I did a little Dumpster Diving when we were out in California Hobo-ing the U.S.A. We dove into the dumpsters looking for aluminum cans that we crushed and stored in a canoe that we had anchored to a rack on top of our van camper. We gave it up when we noticed that we had our own colony of flies following our camper wherever we went. We were like that kid in the comic strip that had a dark cloud hovering over his head.
But Dottie was retired and she started Dumpster Diving for aluminum cans and a few extra pennies originally. After a few "dips" she found, just as Carol and I discovered, dumpsters had all sorts of good stuff in there - especially if you go to dumpsters in better neighborhoods. It is amazing what some folks throw away. We sometimes found brand new items that had been stuffed back into their original boxes just because the person who had bought the item couldn't figure out how to put it together. It was amazing and somewhat shocking.
Every time we drove by a dumpster we would see Dottie's car parked beside it and Dottie's head bobbing up and down from inside the dumpster. She had a nice new car. She wasn't really a poor person.
It wasn't long before Dottie had ventured out into distant lands. First we saw her in Port St. Joe, then in Panama City. We saw her in neighborhood dumpsters and behind shopping malls. Her whole appearance began to change. Gradually her wardrobe got shabbier and shabbier. She bought some white rubber boots like the fishermen and oystermen wore. She had a knit cap pulled down over the top of her head like the boys in the hood. She wore a long overcoat. Her complexion got darker or maybe it was dustier. Her whole personality changed. Needless to say she no longer had her nails and hair done on a regular basis. She had a little Toy Poodle. It was white ... then off white ... then a dusty gray. It was something to see how dumpster addiction could affect the whole family.
Dottie became rather detached. She stopped talking to people ... well maybe people stopped talking to her. She was always carrying black garbage bags in and out of her house. Very soon she had them stacked up against the outside walls of her trailer.
The neighbors were affected also. Every time a neighbor came home they stood staring over at Dottie's place for several minutes. Finally they would shake their heads and go inside.
Dottie went from diving to collecting. Dottie had always been a thrifty, penurious type individual and when she stumbled onto this parking lot gold mine, she got the habit. Dottie now had a “dumpster on her back.” She couldn't resist picking up anything of value, even if she didn't know what to do with it.
We would visit her occasionally and we noticed that her doublewide was getting smaller and smaller - and harder to find. First she filled the spare bedroom; then her bedroom; then she started stacking boxes along the walls; then out on the screened-in porch; pretty soon you could barely get up to or into the house.
She started filling her yard with storage sheds. She had her own yard sale business. We never went because ... well we knew her "suppliers." There was also a rather distinctive odor emanating from the area.
One day Dottie just disappeared. We don't know what happened to her. Her lot was cleaned up and her doublewide was replaced. Our guess was that Dottie was finally called to that big dumpster in the sky where one person's trash is another person's treasure and the streets are lined with dumpsters of gold.
Garbage had become Dottie's life but unlike the Ragman's Son Dottie never learned how to market her garbage. There is a moral to this story somewhere but I guess you will have to find it for yourself. I have no clue.
Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie are books written by Richard E. Noble, a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for over thirty years. Both books are now available on Amazon.com. If you would like to stock his books in your store or business e-mail him at email@example.com