The dump closed at 4 PM on the dot every Sunday.
If I was late, I had three choices: 1) take the garbage back to my weekend house, and leave it there until I returned the following Friday; 2) stuff it into the garbage can at the OMNI bus stop without anyone seeing; 3) disguise it as luggage, and haul it back to the city beneath the Jitney.
One thing’s for certain, all options stunk.
Consequently, I planned my departure from the Hamptons every Sunday totally around the dump schedule. I packed up the house by 3:40, drove ten precious minutes to the dump, ran around the bins and made my deposits: Recyclables; Household garbage; Brown paper bags; Corrugated boxes…then drove to the Omni, returned the rental car, and jumped on the four twenty-five Jitney back to the city.
This schedule always went off without a hitch, executed with military precision, until one Sunday, when I arrived at the dump at 4:01. My worst nightmare! What to do with the garbage! I looked around…a light breeze rustling the trees…happy birds chirping…I looked left…I looked right… …nobody around. I quietly got out of my rental car, picked up my measly green garbage bag, neatly placed it on top of a small mountain of other not-so-measly green garbage bags outside the gate, and got back into my car. Suddenly, I heard the dreaded “whoop whoop” of a police siren. With lights flashing, and in a state of acceleration, a county police car pulled up behind me.
“GET OUTTA THE CAR, LADY!”
I froze in my seat. In my mind I heard the reggae strains of the theme song from reality TV: “Bad boy bad boy…watcha gonna do…watcha gonna do when they come for you….”
“STEP AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE!”
With all the calm I could muster, I got out, placed my hands on the hood of the car, and waited to be cuffed.
I turned around, and followed a big burly officer over to the gate, where he picked up my measly little bag of garbage from the top of the pile.
“DOES THIS BELONG TO YOU?”
I heard myself muttering things like “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, it was a mistake, I’ll never do it again…..”
“YOU ARE BEING SIGHTED FOR ILLEGAL DUMPING. REPORT TO THE TOWN HALL WEDNESDAY AT 9AM!”
The officer handed me my garbage and a freshly written citation, then sped away, leaving me holding the bag.
The following Wednesday, I had to take a day off work in the city, get back on the Jitney to the Hamptons, rent another car at the Omni, and drive myself to the Town Hall. There, I made my way into a packed courthouse, and took a seat in the back. I waited nervously while they called the names, one by one, of assorted burglars, drug dealers, gunrunners, drunk drivers, car thieves and spousal abusers. Then I heard my name being called by the courtroom officer. Somehow, it didn’t even sound like me, but there it was, loud and clear, for all the world to hear. I stood up, shaking, and made my way to the center aisle. In what felt like an out-of-body experience, I walked directly forward and faced the Judge.
“YOU WERE SEEN EMPTYING A GREEN BAG OF GARBAGE ILLEGALLY AT 4:01 PM LAST SUNDAY. HOW DO YOU PLEAD?”
Your Honor—I-I- did leave a bag of garbage, but I didn’t mean to………….
The Judge looked at me suspiciously, like the common criminal I was, then slammed his gavel on the desk.
“GUILTY AS CHARGED! $250 FINE.…PAY THE CLERK ON YOUR WAY OUT… NEXT!”
The following week, my rap sheet appeared in the Dan’s Papers Police Blotter: It read something like this: “A fifty-something New York woman was apprehended while illegally dumping refuse outside the Southampton Transfer Station………”
That was the cruelest blow of all. Did they really have to print my age?