Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dumpster Diving

I’ve always considered myself to be frugal. But, the realization that I was, in fact, really cheap didn’t come until one day last week when I found myself head first, nearly diving into a dumpster.

There’s a good reason for my dumpster-diving adventure, though. And yes, it involved saving money - $6.99 to be exact. Most people probably wouldn’t even venture near a dumpster for less than 10 bucks. [Hence, the “I’m-really-cheap” realization.]

I decided that our too-small dwelling had no place for the small box of Christmas lights that I had bought a couple weeks earlier. I figured I might as well return them.

So I set off to return the lights to the store and run a few other errands. I threw a couple bags of trash into the dumpster before I proceeded on my way.

I got into the car and looked around to make sure I had the bag with the box of Christmas lights that I wanted to return.

No bag.

I thought maybe I had forgotten it in our room, but I clearly remembered bringing it with me, along with the bags of trash.

And that’s when I realized. I inadvertently threw it in the dumpster!

For some reason, I felt a frantic sense of urgency to snag the bag out of the dumpster as quickly as possible. There really was no hurry since I knew that the truck had already arrived that day to empty it. (It served as our too-early wake-up call at the crack of dawn.) And there was really no danger of anyone “stealing” my bag of Christmas lights, since no one else was around. And besides, who else would be crazy enough to jump in the dumpster to take it?

But none of these rational thoughts occurred to me, since I was focused on saving my bag of Christmas lights - and the subsequent $6.99 in refund money.

I tried to reach down into the dumpster to take the bag of lights, going even as far as leaning half-way in, head first, reaching for the bag. But the bag sat innocently, too far below for me to reach.

I raced to my car, opening the trunk, looking for something to stand on to rescue the bag. I found a small box that looked like it might work. I brought it back over to the dumpster, standing on it, still too far away to grab the bag.

So I thought for a moment, and then I ran upstairs to our room, taking a wire hangar. I ran back downstairs to the dumpster in the parking lot, twisting the wire hangar into some sort of crude bag-grabbing device to aid in the rescue effort. And it actually worked!

I pulled up the bag, complete with the box of Christmas lights and the receipt still safely inside. I returned the lights to the store, which was much more uneventful than the preceding.

And what confirms that I’m really that cheap? I’d do it all again, if I had to. Although, to be on the safe side, I’m thinking that it might be better to make the trip to the dumpster next time with nothing else in hand but the trash.

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