Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Dump

Slang words are funny. They sometimes arise unintentionally. Nicknames are the same way. One day all of a sudden everybody has a new name for something you’ve always known as something else. Maybe people do it because it’s easier or shorter, but then again, maybe they shouldn’t do it at all.

In South Carolina where my parents live there is a recycling center. It is a place where people from the local community can bring their bottles, cans, newspapers and other recyclable items, deposit them, and know they are helping the environment.

The facility is outdoors and is quite large. It is basically a big loop that has over a dozen different large size waste receptacles to accept all of the items people bring. People drive in and park next to the bin they need utilize and then move on to the next one, or go home, or go to lunch. I don’t know, I don’t follow them.

The official name of the facility is something like the Municipal Recycling and Waste Facility. But my parents, as well as other members of the community, refer to it simply as “The Dump.”

I imagine the person or people who work at the Municipal Recycling and Waste Facility don’t refer to it as the dump. I mean it’s really just a pride thing I imagine. I just can’t see somebody deliberately explaining to people that they work at a dump. Or not a dump, the dump.


It’s not a term that is completely new to me. Growing up my family would use that term to refer to several different locations. One of which included a house on our block belonging to the crazy guy who collected newspapers.

Now while he collected newspapers, I wouldn’t call it “a collection” by any means. You see his house was kind of the blight of our block. In a very suburban neighborhood filled with modest sized homes with manicured lawns, this crazy man was an anomaly. His house was probably the same size as every other, though nobody could really be sure because the bushes outside his house had grown to such epic proportions it actually looked like he lived in a hedge with a door.

I don’t know what the inside of his house looked like… because I value my life. But if the inside of his car was any reflection of the inside of his house, then yes, his house was a dump.

His car was a shitty light blue Honda so packed with newspapers and trash that I find it hard to believe a normal human being could fit, or would want to fit in it. But to call crazy guy a normal human would be a drastic overstatement.

I never got really close to that car because I was terrified of what might happen to me if I ever got within sniffing distance, but I remember as we would drive by I would just stare in disbelief wondering what the hell he was doing with all of those newspapers.

Whenever I saw crazy guy he was always carrying newspapers under his arm, like they were files and he was off to a very important meeting. And he was always in the library too. I remember somebody telling me that he was a college professor. But even if he was a professor of current events, I find it hard to believe that such a position would require such an extensive permanent collection of current events.

Or perhaps he was a professor of newspapers, or crumpling up stuff. Regardless, there was always infinitely more going into his house than ever came out. And thus my family referring to his house as a dump seemed justified.

Even still, we would never use that place to benchmark where our home was. We lived near a school, or the pizza place, or the park. We never said we lived by his dump of a house.

This however, is not a theory that one of my friends subscribes too. This friend of mine lives in South Carolina near the Municipal Recycling and Waste facility. I was unaware of this. So I was surprised that upon asking her where she lived, she responded with:

Do you know where the dump is?

I stopped her right there. Wait a minute. First of all, I did not know where the dump was, but at this particular moment that fact was extremely irrelevant.

Even if you do live near the dump, around the corner, down the block, underneath, above, hell, even if you live IN the dump, you do not tell people that. You tell them that you are in the vicinity of the Municipal Recycling and Waste facility. You tell them that you are not far from the recycling plant. You reframe it in a positive light. You do not tell people you live near the dump! Unless of course you don’t want people coming to visit you, which could very well be a great strategy for keeping people away.

But let’s say there is no other name for the facility. Let us say that you live near an actual dump with a sign outside that says:

(There is no other name for this place)

You find another landmark! Even if it is just you and the dump for 50 miles in every direction, you say:

Oh do you know where the Burger King is in downtown Atlanta? I’m about 250 miles north of there.

Hell, make up a landmark. But for Pete’s sake do not tell somebody you live behind, next to, near, around, close to, in the vicinity of, or remotely close to: The Dump!

Because you know what? That guy on my block, the one who collected newspapers and rifled through other people’s trash, the guy whose hair looked like he had always just woken up from a nap, with the shrubs outside his house the size of national monuments, that guy did live in a dump but I bet you he sure didn’t tell people that.

Or maybe he did. He was pretty crazy.


Neurotic Workaholic said...

It's not unusual for professors to hold on to stuff they don't need anymore; I'm a professor-in-training, and I still have stacks of students' papers from five years ago. I just keep thinking that I might use one of the students' papers as a writing sample for my clsses someday. I should really throw them out at some point. I also have stacks of articles and essays that my professors are always telling me to read, but I've only read about half of them because it takes, like, an hour to read a page of each article. (Just kidding. Well, not really.) I don't have any newspapers, though. :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

"Classes," not "clsses". Here I am, working as a writing teacher, and I just made a spelling error. Bad, very bad.

J.Paschal said...

Yes people should really be careful with their terms.

Pat said...

The crazy guy who lived in the large hedges with a door on it (hysterical) probably identified his house as the one down the block from those crazy Boehmcke's!

And hey, our truck is a total mess and in no way does it reflect our trailer. It reflects that my husband is a slob and I refuse to clean HIS TRUCK!! LOL!

Don't know if you accept awards or not, but I left you one on my blog.

Valerie said...

Hi, I took the link from Pat's blog to get here. Enjoyed your dump (?) article. I shall view dumps with new eyes now and will probably move house to get away from the local one.

amtru23 said...

Great thoughts on The Dump! I think one of the main functions of the dump, in whatever form it takes, is to leave something for posterity. When archeologists are excavating a place they learn just as much from the dump as they do from a temple. Dumps are a way of ensuring that whoever comes after us will have a good sense of who we were and what was or wasn't important to us and their size corresponds with our egos. Waste Management Facilities are a way of institutionalizing our monumental perceptions of ourselves; you gotta have an institution charged with protecting all that valuable crap. What we're saying to future civilizations is "Here are shit tons of waste, see if you can figure us out or do better". The crazy guy down the street is just making this more of a personal endeavor. It might even be that he's trying to preserve some kind of alternative story so that when future archeologist think they have us all figured out by our massive dumps but they'll find this guys house and be like, "Holy Crap! This changes our theory entirely!" He's a professor so that is my bet; is he a history professor? (by the way, we met at Rhiannon's wedding party last weekend.) I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts!