For most guys, a weekend trip to the dump isn't a chore but a joy

October 14, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

FOR MANY OF US, one of life's great pleasures is a weekend trip to the dump.

OK, right now, a lot of you guys out there are reading this and nodding and thinking: "You got that right, brother."

Because going to the dump is still largely a guy thing.

Oh, sure, you see women unloading stuff at the dump all the time.

But women aren't in their element when they're at the dump.

Women don't look comfortable at the dump.

Even if they're wearing the official dump uniform - work boots, jeans, T-shirt, old flannel shirt - everything in their body language screams that they want to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Whereas guys tend to want to linger at the dump.

And why shouldn't they? Everywhere they look, there is action, and much of it involves heavy machinery, two things guaranteed to fascinate most men.

On a typical day at the dump, huge bulldozers teeter precariously, exhaust fumes rising in the air, as they attack large mountains of rubble.

Giant backhoes scoop up enormous piles of debris and toss them into oversized dump trucks that rumble in and out on the dusty roads all day long.

At the Scrap Metal Drop-Off area, old refrigerators are tossed off the backs of pickup trucks and rusted-out washing machines are wrestled from the backs of SUVs, landing in the dirt with a mighty CRASH!

The Recycling Area has all the calm of a street market in Calcutta, as people bicker over what constitutes a true recyclable (newspapers, magazines, phonebooks) from the list of prohibited items (plastic bags, milk or juice cartons, pizza boxes, waxed cardboard.)

And at the Refuse Drop-off point - the hub of the whole operation, the main destination for most dump-goers - vehicles back up to a yawning pit the size of a barge canal and disgorge old couches, bunk beds, rotting tree stumps, all the stuff that's been cluttering their lives for all these months.

Oh, how can you not love the whole scene!

I'll tell you this: If they set up a little bar at the dump - nothing fancy, some kind of black laminate thing with chrome accents, six or seven stools, a couple of domestic beers on tap - some guys would never leave.

The bar wouldn't even need a TV or a pool table or any video games, either.

Because most guys would be happy to sit there and nurse a few beers and watch all the activity around them.

One thing I've discovered over the years: Guys at the dump love comparing the junk they're getting rid of to the junk other guys are getting rid of.

The other day, for instance, my 13-year-old and I were dropping off an old barbecue grill and rusty bicycle when we ran into a former neighbor.

This guy wanted to know all about the grill and bicycle - why was I getting rid of them, how long had they been lying around the house, etc.

He hung on every word, too. It was as if I was telling him the most fascinating story he'd ever heard.

At this point, of course, I felt compelled to ask what he was dumping.

Look, it would have been rude not to ask. Not only that, but it would have hurt his feelings tremendously.

Anyway, this guy's eyes lit up when we finally got around to his junk.

He said he was dropping off some old tires and three old screen doors.

Then he launched into the entire history of the tires and the doors, how the tires had come off his wife's Chevy Cavalier, how the screen doors had been ruined over the years by his jittery Labrador retriever, who goes nuts and hurls himself into the door whenever someone knocks, what a pain it was to drag all this stuff out of the basement, etc.

We shot the breeze for, I don't know, 25 minutes.

And the thing is, if I had run into this guy at the Super Fresh, we wouldn't have said two words to each other.

After all, what's there to talk about at the Super Fresh? How the price of cling peaches is out of control?

If there's a downside to a trip to the dump, it's that the men who work there often seem to be on some kind of power trip.

Some of them have the demeanor of high school football coaches. They seem to delight in ordering people around: park here, don't dump that there, stay in that lane, that sort of thing.

The guy who runs the Refuse Drop-off area at my dump is a big, imperious-looking fellow with a yellow hard hat.

He sits at a little picnic table, under a green umbrella, where he always seems to be jotting something down on a clipboard.

I don't know what he could be jotting down - it's a dump, for God's sake, not the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

But I'll tell you this: When he looks up from the clipboard and waves me into the Inner Sanctum - into the sprawling, dusty pit where I will back up my vehicle and unload the accumulated junk from another seasonal clean-up of the tool shed - I could almost kiss the guy.

And is there any high in the world better than the high you get when you're leaving the dump after another successful drop-off mission?

Your vehicle is lighter. Your home is less cluttered. Your wife is thrilled that all the junk is gone.

For one shining moment, all is right with the world.

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