Walking across the smooth carpet covering the expansive second floor annex of Le Mans Hall, I carefully stepped over the wide burgundy borders. The boarders divided the length into stately geometric segments attempting to invoke the grandiosity of a palatial hall. Playing my invented game of hopping over the burgundy I simultaneously prevented an imagined atrocity and listened to my sister. She detailed to our parents with exuberance her latest class projects, her job cleaning the ceramic studio, and her off campus adventures. All of her talking halted at the presence of a dumpster which was planted at the end of the hall. It was a grateful receptacle into which the students tossed unwanted items after emerging from their large flesh toned dorm rooms passing through tall thresholds, pushing open their heaving dark doors clad with a white board scribbled with the names of the room’s occupants and crowned with a tipsy transom.
Into the dumpster bin, they’d toss crumpled papers, knotted condoms wrapped in tissues, soggy ramen noodles scraped from moldy bowls, and tags yanked from department store clothes. On top of this garbage mountain resting like the foam of fat that hovers on the top of a brothy soup lay a large Papa John’s pizza box. Inside a cheesy Pac-man missing only two triangles opened its mouth as if ready to gobble its cherries: a whole container of dripping, garlic butter sauce which seeped into the cardboard wetting it. In the corner a discarded crust cradled a hot pepper like a sickle to its hammer. The remainder of this pie was intact after some roommates undoubtedly regretted their midnight indulgence and declared it garbage in order to prevent another act of beer slicked weakness.
Into this room temperature box of morning after, my sister who will one day fearlessly sleep on a bench overnight in Rome, spend a summer dusting ancient artifacts while baby-sitting a professor’s pad, and meet her future husband while skiing the Alps, lifted the cover, selected a slice, and ate it. At once I was both horrified and completely impressed. This, more than anything, demonstrated the possibilities college had to offer. My Mom who fed us institutional, leftover tater tots rescued from the nursing home kitchen that my Grandma worked at, gave me underwear and bras resurrected from the garbage pails of her cleaning client, and also had us elbow deep in black trash bags full of deceased people’s clothes trying to find funky jeans and sweaters or anything that would freshen our wardrobes, taught us well that nothing should be wasted.
Looking back I realize my sister invented dumpster diving well before hipsters launched the trend, and for this she will be eternally cool.
*Disclaimer: This story is true-ish--meaning based on memory and some real events, but mixed with some fiction too.