The Great Garbage Getaway

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This past Sunday, my daughter and I almost died…

Of laughter.

We were heading home from a nice, leisurely, after church lunch of fried chicken and fixin’s (that’s side dishes to you non-southern folk). Which brings up a good point; what is it about a Sunday church service that makes people in the south want to eat fried chicken afterward?

Anyway, we were heading home to sleep it off, naturally, because everything about a Sunday afternoon and a full belly scream nap time.

It was just my daughter and I in the minivan, because my son had ridden home with my husband. He leaves the house early every Sunday morning for praise and worship practice, so we take separate vehicles to church.

My husband and son were about 45 seconds ahead of us on the trip home, and had just parked and stepped out of the car to wait for us, so they were able to watch the following scene unfold.

We were pulling into our gated and very well kept condo community, as 2 African American gentlemen  that looked to be between the ages of 19 to 22 in a little gray sports car were pulling out.

Nothing unusual there, except that they were creeping along very slowly and one of them was dangling an overstuffed kitchen trash bag out the passenger side window.

I slowed to see what they were up to, as if I didn’t already know.

I locked eyes with the passenger as he watched me watching him. I was completely stopped by now right inside the entrance, but before reaching the gate, to see if the young man had the guts to make his next move, knowing full well that my eyes were now fixed intently upon him.

Sure enough, the car stopped about 40 yards from the exit to the complex. The passenger then flung open his door and quickly hopped out of the vehicle, with eyes on me the whole time, as he tossed his burden into the trees lining the property.

Our condo community has a trash compactor. A trash compactor that is easily accessible to all those that live within the community. A trash compactor that we, as residents, pay hugely inflated association fees to help maintain every month. There’s a second gate leading out to the main road right next to the compactor. So, had those 2  simply driven the extra few blocks to the compactor, they could have properly disposed of their trash and exited the complex via that particular gate, but nooo…

The guy then ran back toward the vehicle and hurled himself inside with Cheetah-like swiftness. The tires screeched as they pulled away, eager to be rid of my prying eyes as quickly as possible.

Now, I’m not some sort of tree-hugging, “go green” hippy with save the planet, save the vegetarians, save the dust bunnies bumper stickers that always buys organic, attends anti-global warming rallies, and recycles everything I can get my hands on. I am, however, that one idiot in this huge, selfish, and uncaring city that will chase a plastic bag or empty wrapper across the entire length of a parking lot just because I HATE to see someone else’s litter cluttering up the beauty of this world.

So this guy, this litterbug of epic proportions that chose to do his dirty work right before my eyes; he sparked an instant rage inside of me. That was it. He was going down!

“Oh no he didn’t!” I exclaimed, and whipped my minivan around to give chase so fast, that my son, watching from the parking lot, later told me, “I think you got some air on that take off, mom.”

We sped down the winding street after the little gray car that was now gaining ground faster than my big boat could keep up. “Faster, mom! We’re losing them!” my daughter screamed from the seat beside me. We must have been doing 80 down the twisting back road toward the main highway. The speed limit was 40. My foot jamming the accelerator to the floor, intent gaze on the car in front of us quickly speeding away, I yelled back, “I just want his plate number! Can you see his plate number?!” “Not yet, we have to get closer!”

Let me put this spectacle into perspective for you: 2 white girls, fresh out of church, in a minivan, chasing down 2 black men in a sports car…over trash. It was like a scene out of a Wayans Brothers movie. What were we hoping to gain here once we caught up to them? Was I even thinking that far ahead? And seriously, why were these 2 so afraid of a short, fat, white woman and a teenage girl in a minivan?

I didn’t care. I was a lioness in hot pursuit of my prey. I wanted rectification for the heinous crime that I had just witnessed. If I could just get his license plate number, the power would be mine! I could report him to the authorities! I was chasing these evil-doers in the name of truth, justice, and the American way!

Or, litterbugs just tick me off enough to be this stupid.

As the little car continued to speed ahead at a rate faster than our soccer mom-mobile, I began to lose hope that we would even catch up. I don’t think we’ll catch them,” I yelled to my daughter. To which she replied, “No mom, we’ve got this! Don’t give up!”

Sure enough, we were coming up to the stoplight for the main highway. It was red.

The 2 villains weren’t sure how to proceed as they approached the stoplight. They crossed into the right lane…they crossed back into the left. They were stuck. They tried to turn their car sideways across 2 lanes to block our view of the license plate. Too late. “Get the plate, get the plate!” I yelled, and screamed the now visible number out to my daughter just before the 2 geniuses realized that they could have hung a right down the service road and made a clean get away. Oops. Better luck next time, fellas.

Off they sped into the sunset. We waved goodbye. See ya, suckas!

“That was awesome!” my daughter exclaimed. “Go mom!” We fist bumped. “Next time we need to wear capes.” I said.

That brought to light the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation. I looked at her. She looked at me. We laughed all the way back home.

“Well, what now?” I wondered

I called up a friend that owns a property management company in the city I live in. She convinced me that, even though I could call the police and report it as illegal dumping, they would likely do nothing. I could call the management company and let them know, but that would be the equivalent of calling my neighbor to ask why the power went out.

Instead, and because it just grated on my nerves so terribly, my husband and I went out to retrieve the bag of trash and properly dispose of it. It would seem that my efforts in chasing down the culprits and obtaining their license plate number were all in vain.

Or were they?

When we picked up the bag of trash, we clearly saw a piece of mail with a name and address on it plastered up against the thinly stretched plastic barely holding in the contents of the bulging bag. We made note of it. It happened to be a woman’s name on the piece of mail. We walked around the property and located the address. Our building faces it from across the little retention pond.

I surmised that mom must have asked son and son’s friend to take the trash out on their way to…wherever. Son decided to take the lazy way out of the task. I wonder if Mrs. Marie would like to know what really became of her trash.

Hmmm…perhaps a letter is in order?

To whom it may concern…

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Tales From The Thrift Store: Step Into The Sauna

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If you’ve been following the saga that is my life, you’ll remember my mention of the fact that I run a thrift store on the weekends out of the church I attend. As promised, I have come to regale you with tales of the awkwardness that comes with the job thanks to some slightly (okay… majorly) unhinged people. I call them my regulars. As my tall, practically glow-in-the-dark (because she’s just so white), ethnically challenged teenage daughter might say, “people be actin’ cray-cray.” That’s ghetto slang for, “pardon me, sir, but the local Homo sapiens seem to have become rather unpredictable in terms of their mental capacity and ability to soundly reason.”

Anyway, this thrift store happens to be in an unsavory area. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure…it’s in ‘the hood’. What qualifies as ‘the hood’ you ask? Well, it’s a place where you wouldn’t care to be after dark while carrying a wallet, if that helps at all.

It’s Saturday. I’ve been sitting here for 4 hours now. Four down, two to go. If I make it out alive, I want ice cream. Not to eat, just to roll around in like a wallowing pig. It’s hotter than Satan’s Spandex in here. The heat index today is probably not helping the instability level of the locals. I’m suddenly inspired by ‘The Little Engine That Could’. I think I can, I think I can…

Sue is here today. Sue was here yesterday, too. Sue is the homeless lady that I met last Sunday when she came to our church service and stayed for the potluck dinner. Sue picked a good Sunday to come to church. Every time there’s a 5th Sunday in a month, we all bring a dish to pass and converge upon the cafeteria like a pack of starving wolves as soon as the offering envelopes hit the collection plate. Hey, who doesn’t love a free home-cooked meal, right?

Somehow, out of the few dozen people that attended church that day, it was me that Sue talked into giving her a ride downtown to the homeless shelter afterward. Not a terrible or impossible request in theory, but I spent the entirety of my Sunday afternoon stuck in bumper to bumper  traffic moving either at a slow crawl or not at all thanks to the fender-bender on the interstate. I don’t blame Sue for this. I blame the maniacs that don’t know how to drive in this town.

This act of kindness seems to have earned me a new bi-polar best friend. At least, I think she’s bi-polar. I have a tendency to dabble in psychiatry as a hobby by diagnosing other people’s mental disorders. Needless to say, I can’t seem to follow along with Sue anymore; she’s all over the page. One minute I think she’s asleep, then the next she’s crying, and then the next she’s on the phone yelling at some random person on the other end of the line. From what I can make of the conversations, I think that it’s her mental health specialists that she keeps calling and yelling at. Should I be concerned? This is after she’s greeted each new customer Wal-Mart style and formerly introduced herself with her full given name and a hearty handshake. My last customer scooted out of here so fast that she created the first breeze I’ve felt all day.

Sue has settled herself onto one of the couches that I’m trying to sell, along with a book that I’m also trying to sell. I guess I can always tell the customers that it’s a “live demonstration”, right? She’s falling asleep and is starting to drool on the pleather. Please, Lord, not the pleather. I can see the value of the 10 dollar couch rapidly depreciating. Do drool and sweat stain?

She’ll sit here until closing time and then ask me to drive her somewhere. Yesterday it was Wal-mart. I don’t know exactly when my free chauffer service opened for business, but lately, business has been booming. Ah well … it’s my job to serve. I have the gas, I have the time, and I couldn’t very well say, “no, I have to get home” without knowing that it’s just an excuse. Excuse is a fancy deep fried and rolled in sugar term for big, fat, stinky LIE. I’ve heard it through the grapevine that God doesn’t like those.

I see a lot of homeless people in the store during the summer months. Mostly men. They usually slur their words and struggle to stay upright all the while smelling strongly of whatever cheap adult beverage they’ve spent the rest of their money on and most of the afternoon consuming. My nostrils continue to burn even after they’re gone. Apparently, there’s a flashing neon sign in the window that says “Drunken people welcome.”  I can’t see it, but they can, like the Emperor’s New Clothes. I give them a free can of food and a clean outfit when they come in. I guess one could argue that it’s my own fault for “feeding the strays”, but what can I say? As I believe I’ve already mentioned, it’s my job to serve. This isn’t without its rewards, though. There are a few people that come in that are in genuine need. It’s those people that make sitting here in this sauna all summer long worthwhile.

Sue isn’t the nuttiest person that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing company with during a day at the thrift store. Not by a long shot.

I once had a mother and her young son come into the store. Now, understand that in the building that houses the store, there are 4 separate bathrooms. That’s four distinct opportunities to properly relieve one’s self, including 8 individual toilets. Mom of the year didn’t let that fact deter her, though. After ignoring the pleas to ‘potty’ from her tiny charge who had been systematically destroying the store one item at a time up until now, her young offspring of maybe 5 or 6 years of age proceeded to pull down his pants, and happily urinate on the floor in front of the toy rack.

At this point, as a mother myself, my face would have turned about 50 shades of red, I would have apologized profusely to the manager (hey, that’s me!)…and asked if I could help clean up the mess, all the while eyeing the door wishing I could slink away with whatever dignity I could still manage to muster.  Not ‘Ironmom’, though, with her nerves of steel. She proceeded to step over the puddle with disdain as if she was actually offended that I would allow it to remain there, and continued shopping. If I recall, she ended up spending 75 cents in the end. This didn’t even begin to cover the trauma inflicted upon my fragile psyche as I proceeded to clean up the ‘boy spill’ on aisle 3.

Trust me, all of this nonsense is completely true. The stuff that seems to happen to me on a regular basis is far wackier than anything I could ever make up.

I think the heat is finally starting to get to me. My pants are too tight. I should lose a few…several…50 some odd pounds. I have a heat rash that I can’t scratch. Not now, anyway, I have a customer.  Don’t ask me where it is. Sunlight doesn’t venture there; your mind shouldn’t, either.

There’s a deaf guy that comes in every weekend. Let’s call him Dave…he looks like a Dave. I like him. He grunts and points. I nod and smile. Then I think to myself, “Now this is a level of communication I can handle.” Dave bought a box of nails yesterday. This led me to wonder…if Dave hits his thumb with a hammer by accident when he’s pounding those nails, would he keep quiet or would he scream or perhaps shout some form of distorted expletive even though he wouldn’t be able to hear it?  That’s one of those ‘If a tree falls in the woods’ type of queries. The world may never know. Good old Dave. I wish him luck with his nails.

Husband number 2 breezes in from time to time and promptly disappears elsewhere in the building. Can’t say I blame him. Why should he sit here and bathe in his own sweat if he doesn’t have to? I can’t bother with the air conditioning when it’s just going to escape out the roll up garage door that serves as the shop entrance.  It’s probably 175 degrees give or take half a degree behind this desk. Of course, the Hubster does suffer from A.D.D. He wouldn’t be able to sit still anyway. I diagnosed him myself. Saved us a medical bill. I made this assessment based on the fact that he tends to…oh look, a squirrel.

Hallelujah…would you look at that. Closing time already and it only took a decade to get here. I might just wander down the street to Wal-mart and stick my smoldering head in with the frozen vegetables for a few minutes before I make the pilgrimage home.

Until next time, readers….stay cool.