Adventures at the Dump

2008 April 13

Adventures at the Dump

Immediately after dropping the 'F bomb' I knew I had made a huge mistake. And I was right. My worst fears were realized when the man I was arguing with heard my comment (which was delivered while I was walking away from him, not directly to his face, not that it really matters, but I digress…) and kicked me out of the Richmond, California transfer station. Now I was stuck with six 32-gallon trash cans full of soil in the back of my neighbor's truck. It was around 3 pm on a Sunday, I had already spent 4 hours digging and loading said soil and all I wanted to do was get home take a walk with PJ (our 4-month old baby boy, pretty much the best little guy ever!) and Mom to the park.

It all began when I pulled up to the cashier to pay for the right to dump the soil. By looking at the six cans in the back of the truck she estimated I had 1.5 cubic yards of material. This, of course, is impossible since 1 cubic yard equals about 200 gallons and my six 32-gallon trash cans only totaled 192 gallons. As I explained this to her she noted that she did not posses the facilities required to verify such a statement so the manager was brought in.

Jorge Flores (510.714.4812) looked at the bins in the truck and confirmed that I should be charged for 1.5 cubic yards. I should point out that the minimum charge is for 1 cubic yard and I have often brought much less and paid this full amount. I informed the cashier that I still didn't agree with their estimate so I was told to pull forward, out of the growing line of trucks, to discuss my volume of dirt directly with Jorge.

After about 5 minutes I began to get frustrated. If someone doesn't believe that 1 cup is 8 ounces, what can you do? I tried a different approach, telling Jorge that I had recently bought 1 cubic yard of mulch and it all fit within these same six cans, with room to spare. Nope. Perhaps intimidation would work. I told Jorge that I wanted his name and the name of his manager. After writing the information down for me he said that he was willing to measure the load so we could calculate the volume. Hmm, "Do you know how to calculate the area of a circle?" was followed by no response. "These are cylinders, not cubes, you can't just multiply the length times the width times the height" was also followed by a response, but not to my question. At that point I steamed off in an opposite direction and dropped the bomb.

That sure got his attention. I was kicked out. Actually, he told me I couldn't dump here then drove off. I walked up to the cashier and tried to pay for the 1.5 cubic yards but he had radioed her not to accept my money. What to do? I now had six 300-pound bins of dirt. Taking them back home and trying again the next day seemed to be my best option, certainly better than trying to find another dump on a Sunday afternoon or simply illegally dumping it somewhere in Richmond. Instead I drove into the heart of the dump, towards the transfer station, not sure what to expect.

Jorge saw me coming, and as I approached the building he found the biggest worker around and told him something. Bobby asked me for my receipt and told me I couldn't dump the dirt without one. I told him I was sorry, that I had made a mistake, and asked if I could do anything to make the situation right. Jorge showed up and, quite unexpectedly, Bobby spoke eloquently of forgiveness and noted that "we all make mistakes sometime". With Bobby present, I apologized directly to Jorge and again repeated my offer to do whatever it took to make things right. After quite a bit of talk about respect a tape measure was produced and Jorge and I agreed that the height of the dirt in one can was about 2 feet and that the diameter of the can was about 1.5 feet.

Using his pen, on the same piece of 5-inch by 3-inch paper that he had written his and his managers name on, I wrote the following equation:

Volume = 6 x 1/4 x pi x d2 x h where

6 = number of trash cans

1/4 x pi x d2 = area of a circle

pi = 3.14, the ratio of a circles circumference to its diameter

d = diameter of can

h = height of can

Using our agreed upon values of d = 1.5 feet and h = 2 feet I did the math while he and Bobby watched and came up with 24 cubic feet. Jorge acknowledged that my 24 cubic feet was less than the 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard and allowed me to dump but only after more talk of respect. As it turns out, I got home in time to take PJ to the park with Mom and we had grand time pushing him in a swing. That night however, I was still so wound up about the event that I drank 3/4 of a bottle of wine (a huge amount for a light weight drinker such as myself). Em noted that this was equivalent of 3 or 4 glasses of wine. I disputed this, grabbed a piece of paper and began converting milliliters to ounces…just kidding. About the last sentence that is, not the rest of the story.

Five days removed from 'the bomb' I can't remember if Jorge ever apologized but as the days go by, I care less and less. Immediately after the event I planned on writing Jorge's manager, Tom Gracie (510.815.1319), to first admonish Jorge for trying to overcharge me and then to praise him for talking with me after he kicked me out. I have yet to contact Tom, and have no desire to get Jorge in trouble, but would like something good to flow in Bobby's direction. Perhaps I'll mail this story to Tom. In future trips to the dump, I'll bring some sort of documentation showing the conversion between gallons and cubic yards, and if that fails, I'll go straight to the formulas. This event has taught me a valuable life lesson, nothing intimidates people like math.