Saturday, October 18, 2008

Adventures on Post

Today one of my worst fears was realized.

It started out a good day. It was my cleaning day, so I rolled out of bed around quarter to nine and began by brewing a cup of chocolate truffle coffee. The sun was bright and warm enough to open all the windows and the sliding glass doors.

I hadn't been able to clean very well the week past due to my back injury, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I could see the dog's paw prints all over the wood floors where the sun hit.

It was going so well that I decided to pull out the steam vac that has lurked in the back of the family room since I moved in, taunting me with its cleaning potential. I decided today was the day I would tackle it, how hard could it be to get one up and running?

Twenty minutes later and some google searching on line, I figured out the damn thing. Never mind that I had no idea at first to use the trigger and so had to re-clean the entire family room carpet, this time with water, as is the point of a steam vac. Now the downstairs carpets are all slightly soggy and decorated with little balls of assorted animal hair. But clean, very clean.

As usual, after cleaning, I gathered up all the trash of the past week and threw it into the trunk of my Civic to dispose of on post, as instructed by my husband. When he lived here, he would take the trash with him in the morning, and toss it into whatever dumpster was readily available.

I could not be so cavalier. Though Keith assured me it would be fine, I simply could not just walk up to a random dumpster and toss in a trash bag. Surely someone official would bellow at me from afar, come walking rapidly up to me and demand to know why I was disposing of trash in said dumpster, and on what authority and for what purpose and didn't I know that this dumpster was strictly for the use of..., etc, etc.

I have a horror of offending the authorities. Perhaps this was due to an early childhood experience at a water park. It was my first time at any kind of theme park and I will filled with both awe and trepidation, standing in the center of all that bustle, the air filled with shouts and screams of joy, while on all sides the watersides, in their many and varied attractions, rose into the bright blue sky.

The wave pool quickly became my favorite and I couldn't help but notice that many other children and adults were further enjoying the experience by riding on yellow inner tubes. Looking around me, I saw the source of these inner tubes, and filled with an unusual courage for such a shy child, darted over and appropriated one for myself.

Not two steps did I take before a great and loud voice demanded that I stop and put down that tube immediately. At first, I didn't realize the voice was addressing me. But, I froze and turned. Sure enough, a large and red face adult was bearing down on me, anger visible in every line of his bulky body.

"You haven't paid for that!" he bellowed.

Mortification rooted me to the spot. I thought I would turn to stone and then crumble away. I had stolen! Ignorance obviously was no excuse. Trembling in every limb, I stumbled to return the stolen merchandise. Since then, whenever taking on a new task, I have been haunted with the fear that someone will, out of the blue, holler at me from behind.

Today was perhaps the third time I had gone on post to take the trash in, and I was feeling almost confident. I was no longer afraid of getting lost and I no longer suffered a bout of nerves approaching the gate, though I still had my i.d. out long before I reached it, ready to be presented.

I swung into the fenced enclosure as usual and popped my trunk, when I heard, from the rear, a loud voice.

"Do you have any recyclables?" it asked. I swung around and saw a veritable mountain man bearing down on me from his little hut at the gate. He was short, wore jean overalls and was endowed with a beard straight out of any Mark Twain novel.

"No," I admitted. Under the slightest pressure, I will inevitably revert to the truth. It was one of my biggest weakness as a manager.

"That's for trash only," continued Mr. Mark Twain character.

"But what I have is trash," I explained, confused.

"You can't just dump your trash here, you have to have recyclables too," he elaborated. "Do you live on post?"

"No," I confessed, immediately.

He further inflated with offended dignity. "Well," he began, "if you live off post, you can't just bring your trash here to dispose of! Essentially you'd be stealing from the United States Government."

"I was just doing what my husband told me to do once he deployed," I explained, irritated that obedience to one form of authority had caused me to become entangled with another, and one as large and looming as the entire United States Government.

This took some of the air out of him. "Oh," he said. We talked further. He explained to me that not even retired military could bring their trash there to dispose of, also that he had just gotten the job and was worried that if he let me, he would get in trouble, that he was retired military himself.

"Call me Scrapper," he said, now jovial, thrusting forth his hand to be shaken, "Mule Scrapper." (In the interests of protecting my friend's identity, I have taken the liberty of changing his last name. His first, however, remains indelibly his own.) I took the proffered hand and was still flustered enough to have to think carefully before saying my own married name.

Mule leaned in toward me conspiratorially. "Look," he said, "I'm going to be working here five days a week. Next time you come, just bring some recyclables with you and it'll be fine."

He winked; it went very well with the beard. I thanked him, feeling much better, but was still so flustered that I took the wrong turn and almost got lost, had to carefully back track.

Now what will I do? Could I actually dare to go back, even if I have carefully separated my trash into bottles, newspapers and...trash? What if it is not Mule? This time I was genuinely ignorant, the next time I won't be able to pretend it. Well, I have a week to think it over, maybe I should just pay for trash disposal at the house and not tell my husband, who would not understand either my anxiety or my qualms, and telling him would only frustrate him that he wasn't here, himself, to take care of it.

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