I will now tell you a remarkable story, which at the end, you will believe to be a written script from "I Love Lucy," "Three's Company," or another TV sitcom in which the most absurd, unlikely, series of events take place, yet everything works out in the end. It's a true story of believing in the impossible, never giving up, helping someone in need, and it all takes place in the City Landfill, up to my knees in a mountain of garbage.
It all began one innocent, hot afternoon when I couldn't find my bag of toiletries I kept in a plastic grocery sack. I was in town, staying with my parents. After searching high and low for the stupid thing, I finally woke my mom up from her nap because I was so irritated, and thought that in her neurotic (but lovable) cleanliness, she tucked it away somewhere I would never find.
"I haven't seen it," she said in a voice surprisingly concerned for someone who was just abruptly awaken from her slumber. "Gosh, I hope your dad didn't think it was garbage and throw it away. Today is garbage day." (If this was a script, it would say "Cue the scary music here.")
Immediately I had that sinking feeling that I knew to be hopelessness. It was in a plastic bag on the floor next to the front door. Of course he threw it away. Even though I had already seen the dump truck drive by the house, I raced outside to see if by chance they had missed our trash. They hadn't. I bummed hard at the thought of buying ALL new make-up. I mentally went through the rest of the bag's contents: my pajamas. Oh well. My $40 face wash. Kill me. My flip flops. Cheap things from Wal Mart. My....OH GOSH! My wedding jewelry was in there! I never took my wedding jewelry from it's safe place in my bedroom, but I was having pictures taken and I wanted to wear my special jewelry! I screamed this in a panic to my mom, whose eyes grew wide with horror.
We both went into freak-out mode. It's that feeling when you've just realized you don't know where your wedding ring is, or you accidentally sent a very inappropriate text message to the person it's about, not the person you're telling it to. That feeling of OH $#@&!!! And there's nothing that can be done about it.
Before I knew it, my mom was on the phone to the garbage company, directory assistance, and probably 911 for all I knew. My grandma had made an impromptu visit at the height of the chaos. I screamed an order at her, "DRIVE AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND STOP THE DUMP TRUCK!"
To which, she loyally obeyed with the determination of a soldier just given a life or death mission.
Finally, my mom spoke to a woman at the city landfill, who discovered that our neighborhood dump truck had rolled through the gate, not 5 minutes ago. Now in full panic mode, I heard my mom scream into the cordless phone,
"Walkie-talkie him! Tell him not to dump it! We'll be there soon!"
In a flash, we were in the car racing to the city dump, leaving my poor grandma behind to continue driving in vain around the neighborhood. In a nervous fret, I twisted my hands in my lap as my mom broke every traffic law in the books. But my heart stopped again when she said,
"Beth, are you sure it's not in the house?"
Oh gosh. I had made stupid mistakes before. What if I had just missed the bag? What if it was sitting on my bed, or in the bathroom closet? I had to get a hold of my dad at work and find out for sure that he threw it away before we cost the City Landfill hours of overtime, or an ulcer to eat away at my stomach lining.
But my dad works in a factory that's as difficult to get through to as the White House. Finally, after trying several random extensions to find a human being, I explained to a man in accounting that I needed to speak to an employee. Un-phased by the obvious urgency in my voice, he calmly explained,
"We don't take employees off the line unless it's an emergency."
"Yes, it's an emergency." I said.
"What kind of an emergency?"
I couldn't believe he was hounding me about this. Before I could conjure up a lie, my mother, in an uncharacteristic bout of fanaticism, ripped the cell phone from my ear and shouted into the mouth piece,
"This is an urgent medical emergency! He needs to call his wife immediately!!!!"
I now had a new worry, in addition to, what if I lost my wedding jewelry forever:
A) What if my mom has gone mad?
B) What if my poor father has a heart attack when he gets that message?
In a matter of minutes I received a phone call from nearly every family member, "WHAT HAPPENED? IS EVERYONE ALRIGHT?"
That idiot never gave my dad my cell phone number with the message, so in heart-stopping panic, he proceeded to call everyone he could think of to find out what the big "medical emergency" was. After I assured my poor grandma that no one was in the hospital, my dad finally got a hold of me and confirmed my fear. My little bag was in the landfill somewhere.
When we got to the landfill, a very grouchy woman (who had reluctantly agreed to stay past her shift for us, which we were very thankful for), buzzed us through the gate. Then, a gritty, tough looking man named Rudy gave us each a neon yellow safety vest and led us to a pile of garbage the size of house, which sat in the middle of roughly 50 football fields worth of other garbage.
"We think it's in this pile," he said, waiving us towards the mound.
I stared blankly at him for a second. "Uh huh. So, then we just dive in?"
I've never been mountain climbing before, but I've seen movies. So I knew just what to do to get to the top of this pile. I had to find a strong foot hold. I had to find a firm grip with my hands. Eventually, I scaled my way to the top. Oh, I should mention I was in flip flops and a knee-length sun dress which I'm certain kept blowing up above my waist. My mom suggested, maybe that's why Rudy was kind enough to stay so long and help us.
Rudy bulldozed one small section of the pile at a time so that it was all laid out flat and easier to search through. I did my best to suppress my gag reflexes as I smelled the stench of 2-week old chilly, beer-covered corn husks, and unrecognizable goop and mush that was now all over my arms and legs. The record setting heat of the day (90 degrees F), had us drenched in sweat. Panicky little tears ran down my face, along with a steady stream of snot, none of which I dared wipe away with my now filthy hands. We were quite a sight, needless to say.
And then, after what seemed like a million hours (realistically about one and a half), I heard my mom say,
"Hey, I think this is our garbage."
"Yeah, your dad drinks this tea," she said, more convinced as she held up an empty cardboard package of Brisk Iced Tea.
I ran over to explore the new lead, knowing that thousands people in Lincoln, NE drink Brisk Tea. But in a matter of minutes, I spotted the white Target sack. And I began screaming, like a hysterically crazy lady. To which my mom (who may have actually turned into a hysterical crazy lady by now), joined in. We jumped up and down victoriously and when Rudy made his way out of the bulldozer to see what was happening, we clobbered him in a very grimy group hug.
We drove home (careful not to touch anything with our bare hands) exhilarated and in disbelief. In miles of landfill and piles of garbage, we found my tiny little earrings. My eye lash curler was flattened. My tweezers, a bent up mess. My $40 face wash had exploded all over everything. But my earrings were in perfect condition. It wasn't until later, that I thought about what motivated me to automatically search so urgently and diligently for them. Well, I got married in them. I loved my wedding. Everything that day was just what I wanted, including my jewelry, which probably couldn't have cost more than $100. But to me, because of that day and who I married, they were priceless. If those earrings weren't a family heirloom before, they sure are now.
And so, like a neatly tied up ending from "Who's the Boss?" or "Saved By the Bell," everything was fine. I found my jewelry. My dad never did have that heart attack (though he did feel some guilt for throwing the bag away). And Rudy got hugged by 2 pretty (albeit slightly crazy) ladies. But it was no TV producer who wrote this ending, it was God. And it was certainly a miracle.
I found a to-scale diagram of the Lincoln Landfill, and through the magic of PowerPoint, am able to show you about where we were. I enlarged us and the earrings so you could see better. And I shrank the pile of garbage, because you wouldn't believe the real thing...