Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28, 2017--The Town Dump

We arrived for the season and at top of our list of things to do was finding the town dump and buying a resident's sticker since we planned to take charge of our own garbage.

This was our priority since we hauled quite a bit of stuff up here and knew before unpacking that we would have a lot to throw out. Both the bags and boxes in which we packed things and a great deal that the previous owners left behind which we either didn't need or like well enough to keep. We also want to live as green a life style as possible in Maine, so sorting things out the right way--their way--and recycling them as directed was something we wanted to get right on top of.

So where the dump is, its hours, and how we needed to behave and interact with them was something we have been thinking about.

You may be wondering why all this seeming angst about refuse. Why all this concern about how to behave and interact with it and those in charge of its disposal.

These concerns derive from our experiences some years ago with the East Hampton dump. As with much else in the Hamptons it was not always pleasant.

First, to control the amount of rubbish tossed into the landfill the town limited the number of dump stickers it sold to residences each year. So there was a rush at Town Hall to purchase them the first day they were available. If you were too late to acquire one, your only choices in regard to your trash were to arrange for expensive private carting (this is the South Fork after all and everything out there comes at premium); you could take your garbage back to the city with you Sunday evening (more than you might imagine did this); or you could skulk out in the middle of the night and dump your garbage either in the woods or stack it by the fence at the entrance to the dump.

This latter option disappeared one summer after the dump managers set up a closed-circuit TV monitoring system that caught the likes of Calvin Klein and Martha Stewart disposing of their refuse in this political incorrect manner. Among other things, those of us in the relatively low-rent district muttered, "This is how the rich get richer." It also for months gave us lots to gossip and chuckle about. “Can you imagine?  Martha?

One more thing--in the tony, status-seeking East End having a dump sticker affixed to your front bumper was another way of letting everyone know that you owned a house in the Hamptons. And if you were able to get in line at the Town Hall at 6:00 a.m. on the day they first went on sale three hours later, after filling out half-a-dozen forms, showing two pieces of photo ID, and either the deed and/or two local utility bills, not only would you secure one, you would also be assured of getting a bumper sticker with a low number.

Low numbers of all kinds were symbols of status--low-number beach parking permits were coveted (these were for gaudy display on your car’s side window) and especially low telephone numbers.

324-0002, for example, is the phone number for the legendary local paper, The East Hampton Star, which has been around for seemingly hundreds of years. For so long, in fact, that when they started publishing telephones hadn't even been invented.

Therefore, to have a number of your own in which the last four digits were less than 1,000 meant that you were in residence before the Wall Street bonus babies and the other nouveau riche descended on the place and plopped McMansions into million-dollar-per-acre potato fields. In fact, when we sold our modest house, the buyer paid us an extra $1,000 for our phone number. True, it was "only" 324 3026, but at least it had the coveted 324 (the population had grown so large that the telephone company ran out of 324s and instituted the prefix 329); and 324 with 3026 was thus worth literally more than, say, 329 5024. And thus a $1,000.

You get the picture. And therefore, considering our history with garbage, you might understand our dump anxiety as we were taking possession of our Maine cottage by the bay.

On Friday morning with our back seat and trunk almost as full of trash as it had been the day before with clothes and dishes and pots and glassware and food mills and knives and bathroom items and tagine pots, we found our way to the Bristol dump. Actually, the Bristol “Transfer Facility.”

To get to it, off the Bristol Road, you turn up Transfer Road and the first thing you notice it that there does not appear to be a guardhouse at the entrance. In East Hampton there was one that was a mini-mansion unto itself and ensconced in it at all times was an imperious, dour municipal worker who took great pleasure in scrutinized dump stickers and turning away anyone whose had expired or was affixed too far to the right or left or, better yet, any of the uninitiated who wandered in without any sticker at all. Actually, his greatest pleasure seemed to be to slow down and especially scrutinize anyone in a car costing more than $75,000. As if he suspected there was an illegal immigrant hidden in the trunk.

Into the Bristol Transfer Facility we trailed behind a couple of battered pickup trucks and a 25 year-old Volvo. We felt a bit out of place in our new Passat station wagon still shiny from the car wash back in New York, not yet coated with splatterings of the ubiquitous Maine mud. The car in that regard is still a work in progress.

At the facility there is no signage in easy sight, nothing to direct you to any of the huge bins into which others were purposefully transferring recyclables. But before wandering about among them, we though to go to the office to ask about purchasing a dump, I mean transfer permit and how to display it.

The office wasn't easy to locate and so we parked and wandered over. There was no one in it and so we turned toward an area where it appeared people were dropping off still useful items such as old pots and pans and bicycle parts and toaster ovens and floor lamps, the sorts of things we would subsequently be wanting to dispose of after sorting through what had been left behind by the pervious owners at the house.

At a makeshift counter, receiving these items, were three men who clearly were employees of the town.  With lots of bantering back and forth they seemed to know everyone lined up with still-good stuff that might be of interest to others in need of a second-hand Mixmaster.

“This here one is still working,” said a woman with an old electric fan.

One of the grizzled workers was holding it up close to him so he could scrutinize the wiring. “Bet better than Old Jeb back home,” he chuckled. “Workin’ I mean,” he said with a broad wink. She laughed along with him.

Someone else passed parts of a drum set across the counter. It too underwent close inspection to see if all the mechanisms were intact. They appeared to be. “So Junior’s finally given up on this I see,” a younger facility worker in a New York Yankee cap said to the middle-aged man, Junior’s apparent father, dressed all in flannel.

“Not exactly. I’m the one’s givin’ up. He’s still sleeping so I thought to scoop this damned thing up and bring it over to you. Let someone else take it home to his kid. Spread misery around I always say.”

It was then our turn. Expecting to be treated as an outsider, again from our East Hampton experiences, I turned to the Yankee fan, thinking at least as a fellow Bronx Bomber follower, he might look more favorably on me. I thus took the stranger’s risk to say, “Hey, I see you like the Yanks. Must be a rarity ‘round these parts.” Glancing toward one of his colleagues, I added, “They let you wear that here?”

Let me?” he said, “They insist on it. This is a dump after all. Fit place for those chumps. We're all Sox fans here. Serious ones.” He pulled at the beak of his cap to make sure I understood that he meant the Yankees were the ones fit for a dump. Worried that I had misstepped, I was pleased to see he was smiling.

“We just moved into a house up here. Down the road toward the Point and want to join the transfer facility. I mean, learn how to use it.”

“Well, good for you,” it was the grizzled worker, “Thanks for helping us out with your taxes.” At that he broke into full-throated laughter. Friendly laughter. I was beginning to feel the tension draining from me.

“I mean, can you tell us where we have to go to get, I mean buy a dump sticker.”

“Right here,” the Red Sox fan said now with a full smile, pointing at the office.

“Great,” I said. Thrilled that we didn’t have to find our way to the Bristol Town Hall and get on line next Thursday, or whenever, before dawn. “I pay you? Here? Or wherever?”

“Right here.”

“An how much does it cost?”


Nothin’? You mean, nothing? Really?” He nodded. “That’s great.” By the time we left East Hampton a sticker was costing about $100.

“Can I get one now?”

“Any time. Any time we’re open. That’s five days a week. We’re closed on Wednesdays and Sundays and on as many holidays as possible. Even Arbor Day.”

“That’s terrific,” I said. That sounded like a green thing to do—to close on Arbor Day. “Bet you spend the whole day plantin’ trees.” It was my turn to grin.

“More likely cuttin’ ‘em down. But I was just jokin' with you ‘bout that. We’re open that day, 'less it's a Sunday or Wednesday. But you should check the schedule before draggin’ yourself over here with a carload of trash. Nice car, by the way.” He pointed over toward our new VW. I was glad to see that it had acquired more mud from the pitted road that lead to the dump.

“Now about that sticker. Let me go inside and get you one. In the meantime just put your name and address down here. So we can have a record of you.” He passed a clipboard to us on which there was a crumpled sheet of paper that already was half full of names.

“Looks to me,” I said, “that the last name on the list is George Clooney. Does he have a place near here?”

“Not likely,” I received another smile, “Someone wrote it down as a joke. This ain’t one of those fancy kind of Maine towns. Like Kennebunkport. Though we do have the Kresges summering nearby. You know, the folks who own K Mart. Real nice folks. But no Hollywood types. Thank goodness.” He turned to the office, “Give me a moment and I’ll get right back with you.”

I asked Rona if she wanted to put her name on the list. “Only if it’s after George Clooney,” she said with a touch of irony, suggesting I was trying too hard to fit in. “You need to calm down a bit. This is not East Hampton. That’s in part why we want to be here. To get away from all that posturing, and here you are doing your version of it. Try to relax. Everyone thus far has been friendly and welcoming.”

“That’s true,” I admitted, “I am overdoing it.”

“Just a bit?”

I shrugged.

“Here you go. One transfer facility sticker. And the price is right.”

“Thanks. Much appreciated,” I said. It was slipped into a brochure that listed the hours of operation and the various recycling categories—tin cans; newspapers with inserts; clear, green, and brown glass; corrugated cardboard; brown paper bags; aluminum foil and trays, magazines and catalogs; and bulk waste such as shingles, brush, furniture, mattresses, and “demo wood.” I thought we’d have some of all of these and realized that being green in Maine looks like a full-time job.

As we walked to the car, I found the yellow facility sticker in the brochure and must admit hoped it would have a low number. Old habits die slowly. I noticed it did not have any number at all—not a high one, not a low one. None.

I showed this to Rona and she passed me a look that said, I told you so. But, she noticed, there were no instructions about where to affix it to one’s car. “Go back and ask them. I’ll begin to unload the trunk.”

I walked back to my new friend and asked where they required us to attach it.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you about that. Just put it in your glove compartment.”

“In the glove compartment? Not on the bumper or window or anything?”

“You can do anything you want with it, but around here everyone puts it where I told you.”

When I rejoined Rona, with a combination of confusion and delight, I said, “We’re not in the Hamptons anymore.”

She just smiled.

Bristol Transfer Facility

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