So who else went dumpster diving last weekend?
Saturday was one of those high-intensity parenting days where the kids fought all day -- loudly and with much enthusiasm -- at home and in public. Mommy (that’s me) had no patience left. Mommy (again, me) had already texted this message to another mom who was bringing her son over for a playdate that evening:There is no beer in my house but if you would like to bring some I wouldn’t complain.
She was all over that. Bless her.
While the boys were happily taking out every toy we own and playdate mom was making a beer run, my already supremely shitty day took a dive. Yes, right into the dumpster. I’d sent Megan out to toss two small trash bags into the trash chute. I also gave her my keys so she could grab the mail while she was over there. (I know. You’re all putting this together already. You’re so smart.)
Yes. Less than a minute later I heard the front door slam, followed by the sound of Megan’s voice yelling, “MOMMY! I ACCIDENTALLY THREW YOUR KEYS INTO THE DUMPSTER! IT WAS AN ACCIDENT! I’M SO SO SORRY!!!”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen her eyes so wide (except for when the ghost spoke to her).
“Boys. Shoes on. Now,” I said as I looked around for a giant claw, like in those arcade machines, with which I could reach into the dumpster chute to retrieve my keys. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find one. Instead I grabbed a flashlight, a shovel and a broom.
Megan apologized a hundred times on the way to the dumpster. “It’s not your fault. You know I don’t get mad when accidents happen,” I said. But I sounded pretty fucking mad. It’s a lot easier to pull off that line when someone spills lemonade on the living room rug.
I have spare house keys and car keys, but the car key -- being a “smart key” -- costs $300 to replace and it takes about a week to get a new one. (I’m devoted to my Prius but they sort of stick it to you on that whole “cost of ownership” thing.)
It’s the key that costs a gajillion times more than a regular key!
I didn’t want to be down to just one car key. What if something happened to that one? What if that key got lost or tossed? Then we’d all starve to death and probably be eaten by polar bears. I had to protect my children. I knew what I had to do.
So I hurled my daughter into the trash chute and made her get the keys since she friggin’ threw them in there in the first place. (Kidding.) Rather, I hoisted her up to see if she could spot the keys while I held on to her.
They were on top of a bag, juuuuuust at the bottom of the trashy sliding board thing that propels your junk to the dumpster floor. They were out of my reach by a couple of inches. The shovel and broom seemed clumsy and useless -- and likely to knock the keys further into the trashy abyss. I silently lamented my lack of an arcade claw and made a mental note to look for one on eBay.
“Who’s going to get them?” Megan asked with a panicked look on her face.
I did hyperfast calculation. I could boost her up, hang on to her, and with a long reach she could grab them and we’d be outta there in two seconds.
“I think you are,” I said.
“WHAT? MOMMY! I don’t want to go into the dumpster!!! I won’t do it!! You can’t make me!!!” If there exists a book of random and incriminating out-of-context quotes, certainly that one should be included.
Let’s remember that this day had easily been in the Top 5 of Worst Parenting Days of 2013. This kid had pushed my buttons the entire day. She had cycled through every crazy hormonal personality available to young girls and each of those personalities came with a heavy dose of attitude and hatred for her mother. My fuse was not only short, it was gone. I channeled my own bitchy little preteen and blurted out, “Why not? You threw them in there.”
No, not a “win” in the mommy column.
And then my brain slowed down for a minute. In addition to writing about employment law for work, I also write a lot about industrial safety. I have penned a lot of stories about people killing themselves in really stupid ways. (My favorite is the guy who got high before going in to feed the bears at the bear preserve. A classic.) So I couldn’t ignore the fact that while the dumpster chute seemed pretty sturdy and safe enough, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. What I did know was that there was a compactor switch somewhere. I’ve seen the maintenance guys use a key to turn it on, but how did I know there wasn’t an internal trigger someplace? Also, what if she panicked (a big possibility) and slipped into the trash pile and landed on something sharp or disease-ridden? I would never forgive myself.
Plus, I could just imagine the maintenance manager, who knows me pretty well after all my years here, visiting us in the hospital and going, “Trish, what on earth made you think sticking your kid in the dumpster was a good idea?”
Also? If I drove by and saw one of my neighbors sticking their kid into the trash chute, I’d be all like, “Way to go, brainiac! I’ll be sure to nominate you for Parent of the Year, asshole.”
So it had to be me. I left Megan to stand guard and make sure no one else threw trash into the chute while I went home to get a stool. By this time, playdate mom was back from her beer run. “What happened?” she asked.
“Can you come spot me while I climb into the trash chute?” I asked.
I hoisted myself into the grody, trash-caked chute. I sat down and leaned far. Then you know what I did? I nabbed those mothereffing keys and jumped outta there.
Then playdate mom and I went back to my house and drank beer in the kitchen like a couple of heroes.
(If and when you ever come here, I don’t want to hear any crap about how the trash chute is really short and not scary.)
Later Megan said, “You know when you said you weren’t mad? You seemed pretty mad.” Bright kid, that one.
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Trish Sammer Johnston
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