Why Places of Employment Have Nice Dumpster Areas
And I plop down to the pavement once again, kicking off my black dress flats and watching them fly somewhere in between the lines of an empty parking space. It’s dark and the Prattville air is stale from the paper mill downtown, or from the dumpster I’m leaning against: sometimes it’s hard to tell. I pull out my usual vices: cell phone, cigarettes, sanity. And damn, do I put them all to good use.
Nothing gets my blood pumping like a full trashcan at work. It’s like a little tease, all the ripe goodies overflowing into the floor. “Ashley,” it whispers through its oil covered flaps, “it’s our time.” So I always volunteer to take it out back, no matter how unattractive the outside mess may be. Real employees know that beauty is in the journey.
There is a time warp outside the back door of Carmike Cinemas, one mile west of I-65 South at exit 179. You must have trash to enter, and you must have at least smoked one cigarette, made two phone calls, or ran across the street to the cookie shop to buy food before you are allowed back in. No one talks about the warp because it is too sacred for words. Other employees respect you for making the journey, and will never judge how long you are caught within the trap. If someone were to ask about my whereabouts at this moment, “She’s taking out the trash” is all need be said. It’s unspoken. The actual deed of ridding yourself of physical garbage it easy, but the warp demands that you let some of your personal trash loose as well.
I take off my bowtie and vest and lay back onto the grassy area outside the ghost lot that surrounds the dumpster. It’s another late night on the job, staying at work past midnight for the shitty reward of minimum wage. The sky is dimly lit with the faint dots of stars that can make it past all the light pollution from the Target shopping complex across the main road. Their suffocated existence reminds me of my employment for the past two years. I take a puff in toast to them, and the time warp is pleased by my optimism. Responsibility’s melting temperature is a dewy southern night’s heat. It pools in beads of sweat off my forehead and soaks into my Dickies when I wipe my brow.
As soon as the time warp lets you loose, you know. It usually begins with a yell from the assistant manager. You can usually tell, too, when this moment is about to happen. A shadow in the doorway is usually a bad sign: either you’re about to be fired, get yelled at, or someone is going to come rape you. And when the wind blows my cigarette out, I know it’s a terrible omen. Wind won’t blow your cigarette out, but a douchebag boss’ bad vibes will.
I open my eyes instinctively to see the shadow approaching the door. Somehow the shoes find their way from the parking lot back onto my feet; my vest and bowtie tighten back up. My cell phone magically shuts itself back off and my cigarettes are out of sight. I get up from my perch, sigh, and begin the journey back towards the door before I am in my boss’ line of sight. He peeks his fat, smug face from the doorway, sees I am not smoking, and returns to his office.
From afar, the dumpster looks morose. The dim parking lot is eerie, and I am just a deep limbed shadow. I’ve been this shadow for more time than I’ve put in an honest effort at anything. Blame it on the warp. But like all beautiful things, it must end. I am released back into real time, the real world, the real pains of reality.
This is why places of employment have nice dumpster areas.
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