This side up

Another lesson from the dumpster


There was no doubt we could fill the dumpster.

Its magnetic force – a void to be addressed – was felt by both of us. Broken chairs that had been glued and nailed time and again emerged from the cellar. Drawers of whatever would “come in handy some day” got tossed. And when the word’s out that you have a dumpster, even a few friends make deposits.

But then another force kicked in for us, and also for dumpster visitors.

The knock on the door came Saturday.

Captain Fredy was back. The vagabond sailor, who prefers to live on his 26-foot Columbia sailboat than in his Pawtucket apartment, was anchored off shore. He spent the week cruising around Prudence Island and returned to restock from Dave’s Marketplace and buy paint and brushes at Salk’s.

“You know what they charge on the island for water?” he asked with a toothy grin. “$2.50 a gallon! Would you believe it?” he said, well before I had the chance to guess. He had four one-gallon plastic jugs and a pail that he filled with the garden hose.

The pail, he explained, is for doing laundry when he doesn’t feel like returning to his apartment, which is most of the time.

“I don’t know why I keep it [the apartment]. A waste of money,” he said. “There’s so much out here,” he said, with a sweep of his hand to encompass all of Narragansett Bay.

He makes a good point, as long as the weather is cooperative.

Fredy felt the pull of the dumpster, too. But he wasn’t there with a pile of boat debris. He was interested in what the dumpster had to offer. And I know how he feels.

Ever since Charlie Frigon of Seaside Enterprises started repairs on our garage – the victim of a hit and run – and extended work, now that he is here, I can’t help but check out what ends up in the dumpster. I’ve rescued a few perfectly good boards, figuring I’ll need them some time. I can’t escape the irony of lugging stuff out of the basement and then replacing some of it with stuff I’ve taken back from the dumpster.

Fredy has been eying the lumber scraps, too.

“It will make for a great seat in case I have company,” he said pointing to a 2-by-4 soaking in the half inch of water in the bottom of his skiff. I couldn’t imagine company in Fredy’s skiff, which appears far from seaworthy. And a 2-by-4 would hardly be a comfortable seat, although the plank was long enough to be doubled, as he had done for the center seat.

With the water jugs, along with a gas jug, he walked to the Gulf station on West Shore Road to fill. Fredy pushed off to return to his boat. He planned to leave with the morning tide, and an easterly that was forecast, for “a week of fishing,” wherever that might take him.

He shouted, “Thank you and God bless you,” as he pulled on the oars.

I returned to the cellar to expedite the exodus of trash as long as the dumpster was there.

“How do you feel about the old gas grill?”

Carol had no affection for it.

“Fine by me,” she said suggesting I also dump the two wrought-iron chaises with the wheels rusted tight.

“I still want to see if I can fix them,” I protested.

I knew what she was thinking. They would be there for another couple of years, if not longer. The compulsions to rescue and restore and the drive to be free and move on are a trick to balance.

But items are easier to deal with than habits and opinions.

We like to think we can change ourselves for the better; go on a diet, quit smoking, adopt a regime of exercise or of feeding the spirit with contemplation and prayer.

Perhaps guilt can be a motivator.

With the mixed recycling program implemented by the state, it occurred to me that we should have an indoor recycling bin alongside that for trash. Such a revelation is hardly revolutionary. It’s just obvious.

Carol was delighted.

“It makes me feel like I’m throwing stuff out the car window,” she said of the old days when packaging and aluminum plates ended up in the trash.

By far, the better answer to hoarding or indiscriminately discarding is to recycle. And dumpsters, when they are open to people like Fredy and me, more or less serve that purpose.


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