Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tales of Woe from a Freeway Garbage Picker

I found a buried treasure yesterday. Then I lost it.

I went to the storage unit to get some things. One of them was a binder full of email. Kara and I, both being computer geeks, had email accounts at school back in the 80s and 90s, and much of our courtship and early marriage was recorded in those messages. We printed them out when I graduated, and they were fun to read every once in a while.

I felt like they would be good to read again, so I looked up the binder on our packing list and found the box. Sure enough, it was in the corner, on the bottom. I probably should have given up at that point, but I really wanted to get that binder.

So I pulled out half of the big Christmas tree and a bunch of other stuff, opened the box and took out the binder.

I had the truck, so I got a bunch of other things that I needed, too. I didn't want the binder to get smashed, so I decided to put it in the cab, along with the first three Harry Potter books (for bedtime stories) and a box of Family Home Evening pictures. But the truck was locked, so I set these five items on the top of the truck to get my keys out.

I got the rest of the truck loaded, put away the little dolly, and headed for home. When I got there, I went to pick up the five items from the cab, and they weren't there. In a panic, I realized I must have left them on the top of the truck.

So I told Kara what had happened, and raced back to the storage unit, hoping they had just fallen off as I was leaving. My wish almost came true. There in the parking lot were the three books and the box of pictures. But no binder.

I looked all around the storage place before finally giving up. I drove slowly, looking for a binder or some papers or something. As I was getting on the freeway, I saw a lot of garbage. Then, in the median I saw what looked like green and white lined computer paper. The old style stuff.

This was a bad sign.

I took the next exit, circling back around through a maze of parking lots. When I was nearly to the onramp where I got on the freeway, I saw a paper blow across the parking lot. I stopped, got out, and recognized it as one of our old emails.

I don't understand how or why the binder stayed on top of the truck for two miles after everything else fell off, and why it had to fall at a busy freeway interchange. But I was determined not to lose all of this personal history.

I walked up and down the frontage road, examining each piece of paper I found. 4 out of 5 were mine. I collected as many as I could until dusk faded to night and I knew it was just not safe to wander along the side of the freeway any more. I think I probably recovered a third of the papers.

In hindsight, I'm glad it was just mushy old emails, (most of them as boring as the back side of the paper) and not credit card statements (I found one of those) or photocopies of checks (I found two of those).

But still, I'm very sad at the loss.

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