Leaning into a dumpster today--one of those with sliding doors on each side-- pulling out some nice blank journal books and postcard sets, and realizing that there is much more to be had--many more white plastic trash bags, their sides poking out at sharp angles--always a good sign of boxes or books or picture frames.
And now I notice a face in the opposite sliding door openning, a woman about to toss in a bag of garbage, who pauses, smiles, and asks what I'm up to. I begin to tell her as I continue to pull out bags, and as it happens the next one turns out to be full of quilting squares.
'Oh my', she says, 'quilting squares! My sister is a quilter!'
'Then please take them,' I say. 'I'd give them away anyway, and it'll save my having to haul them home on my bike. And let me see what else is here.'
And so I climb into the dumpster and dig further, and it turns out that there are many bags of quilting supplies, fabric, quilting books, ribbon, lace, and the like. So I pull all of this out and give it to her, and all the while we're talking about how much America wastes, and she's promising me, 'I swear to God that none of this will be put in the trash again.'
By this time I've also noticed that she has a slight Spanish accent, and that she speaks in a remarkably calm, considered, and precise English. And now she tells me, 'Thank you so much--you've made my Christmas,' and 'God bless you--you are doing good work'.
So, as she's about to leave, I say from inside the dumpster, 'My name is Jeff--it's been a pleasure talking with you', and I extend my hand to shake hers, but then pull my hand back and say, 'Well, my hands are dirty, we probably don't want to shake hands'. But she extends her hand to me--extends it inside the dumpster that is--and says, 'My name is Bianca.' And with that she's off, and I'm back to openning bags inside the dumpster.
A few minutes later, her face reappears in the same sliding door openning.
'I'm sorry to bother you again, but I have a question: Do you ever get in trouble for doing this?'
I tell her that I do, and recount a couple of my encounters with police, and she says 'So, have they put you on probation?' I tell her no (not for dumpster diving, anyway), that it's been more like being ticketed for criminal trespass, or being banned from certain areas.
'Well, the reason I ask', she says, 'and you won't believe this, but I swear to God it's true, is that last night I had a dream that I was pulling figurines out of a dumpster, and then the police came and caught me, and sentenced me to 150 days of probation.'
'Well,' I say, 'the first part of the dream sort of came true, but not the second--not yet, anyway.'
And with that she's gone again.