Ten Minutes With A Dumpster Woman

dumpster woman

I hate taking out the trash at home, but when I’m at Starbucks, I absolutely love it.  It’s my favorite thing to do.  On any given day I’ll clock in and then immediately approach the supervisor and start trash talking.

“Can’s lookin’ pretty full,” I’ll start nonchalantly.  If they don’t ask me to take the trash out, I give them a little nudge.  “It’s going to overflow soon, probably.  Big mess.  I’d hate to be the one to have to clean that up.  Could attract rats.”

That usually works.  If it doesn’t, then I can wait.  Someone’s going to have to take it out at some point, and I’ve already planted my seed.

The reason I love taking out the trash so much is that it’s like a mini break.  Since I work at a Starbucks in the mall, the dumpster we dump our trash into is a few hundred meters away.  Maybe a two or three minute walk.  Getting the bags in the dumpster takes another few minutes, and, before you know it, your coming back eight minutes later, feeling refreshed.

Eight blessed minutes without having to talk to another human being.

If only it were that simple.

By it’s very nature, a mall is a communal institution, the dumpster pit doubly so.  Everyone in the mall uses the dumpsters.  Sometimes you have to make small talk.  Dumpster small talk.

It’s as uncomfortable as it is banal.

“Oh, hi!  How are you?  Yep, just taking out the trash!  Yes, I know.  Can’t wait for winter!  Work sucks, right?  Yeah, we’ll get better jobs one day!”

How I hate it.

It was night, and I had was bringing a bunch of cardboard boxes to the recycling dumpster, which is right next to the trash one.  I wheeled my cart up the ramp and threw a box in.

“Ow!  Hey!  Stop it!  Somebody’s in here!”

My heart seized up.  There was someone in there.  There was someone in there!  Both the dumpster have pneumatic trash compactors that could easily, easily crush anything left inside.  To death.

“Sorry?”  I asked.  I stared into the dumpster.

A head popped over the inside ledge.  A pretty head.  A woman’s head.

There was a woman inside the dumpster.

Meeting women by the dumpsters is not uncommon in my line of work, though most of them are pale, thin, and utterly unresponsive.


This one was different.  She wasn’t a mannequin.

So I asked the obvious question.

“Oh, you know,” she replied, “just looking for stuff.”

Stuff?  “This dumpster is for recycling only.  It’s mostly just cardboard boxes.”

“Well, that’s great.  You can never have too many cardboard boxes,” she said with a smile, and the disappeared again.

I looked over at the big, green button on the railing.  The one that started the compactor.  The one that would compresses her to a pulp.  The one that literally any unknowing passerby could press.

It’s loud.  The pneumatics would drown out her screams.

“They’re all squished!” she lamented

“That’s because you’re inside a trash compactor.”

The head popped up again.  “Really?

“Yeah.  You could die.”

“Huh,” was all she said.  She looked at my boxes.  “Are you gonna use those?”

I shook my head, and the woman climbed out of the dumpster.

I don’t know what I expected, but It wasn’t what I saw.  Here, crawling out of a dumpster, was a gorgeous twenty something woman in very chic clothing and, I kid you not, high heels.  Her hair was perfect.  Her nails divine.  She even had makeup on.

I stared.  She noticed.

“Sorry,” I said, “I just thought that someone… of the dumpster… wouldn’t look like…”  I took a breath.  “Aren’t you nervous someone might see you?   Someone you know?”

“Hey,” she said, “everyone needs boxes.”

Again with the boxes.  Who was this woman? Did she live in a box?  Did she and her lumberjack, rugged, cover of Men’s Fitness husband construct a house out of used cardboard?  Do they sleep on a cardboard bed?  Eat cereal out of cardboard bowls?  Did she send a lot of packages?

“I guess…” I said, as the woman picked up all of my cardboard and carried it to an infiniti CRV not too far away.

She left me alone with my thoughts.

Why?  Why would someone who didn’t have to climb inside a dumpster?  Who would do that?

She stayed on my mind as I walked back to the store.

I was mopping the floor when my friends showed up.  Nate and Britt had just graduated from the same graduate film program I had, and had made the move to LA less than a week ago.  Nate has two internships and film production companies.  Britt has some set jobs lined up.

I was in a green apron, mopping the floor, and I’d been here for a year.

Time flies.  When I first moved out here,  lived in a beach house thanks to a mix up with the apartment I would rent.  I stayed there for a week.  I was interning at a production company, the same one Nate was interning at now.  I was living the dream.

beach house

And now I’m mopping floors in a mall, taking trash to dumpsters, talking to strange women who dwell within.

At this point, I thought I’d be writing for TV show.

“There he is,” Nate said as I walked around the bar, “Looking good in that apron.  Has it been a good day?”

“Sure, it was busy earlier, but it slowed down now.”

Nate looked around, smiling.  “So do you like it here?”

I looked at my mop.  I thought about Starbucks.  I thought about the customers.  I thought about bills, and paychecks, and rent.  I thought about student loans.  I thought about fixing my car.  I thought about my health insurance, and my free coffee, and my computer, and my writing, and the industry, and movies and TV and socks and money and beer and people and friends and life and death.

Most importantly, though, I thought about a woman in a trash compactor stealing cardboard.

Hey, everybody needs boxes.

“Yeah, I do.” I finally said.  “What can I get for you guys?”

He got a very berry hibiscus.  Just like I knew he would.

very berry hibiscus


Leave a comment


  1. Awesome story :p
    …but what a scary thought the poor lady might have been crushed.

  2. You have lots of talent. Great voice!

  3. I have been known to dumpster dive but not in high heels and not in one with a pneumatic crusher…I have limits to my insanity…

    • It can still barely believe she was actually in there. I’m glad to know you have more common sense than to fish for trash in a killing machine.

  4. Wonderful story and writing. My little share to chime in, I work at a frozen yogurt shop (also 5 or 10 steps down from my former profession) and though I too love getting out of the overheated shop into the cool night air, quiet and customer-free, the part I dread the most is going out to the dumpster at 11 p.m. or so fearing that person who will pop out of the dumpster. I actually run with hefty loads of trash in each hand to dash and dump. It’s great exercise of both my cardiovascular system and my imagination.

    • An ample defense against any ruffians you may encounter while taking out the trash. And then, using your hefty oads, you might be able to “take out the trash”, so to speak.

      • “And then, using your hefty oads, you might be able to “take out the trash”, so to speak.” Delightfully said, brightening the convo thread. I’m hooked on the first story.

  5. lisabrock

     /  August 29, 2015

    Awesome! Reminds me of David Sedaris, only not dirty, better!

    Sent from AOL Mobile Mail

  6. Heather

     /  August 29, 2015

    Sadly, I have been that dumpster girl…looking for boxes…even dressed nicely. I know, it’s crazy, but I only do it when I’m moving. That doesn’t sound any better. Maybe there is a dumpster boxes anonymous somewhere. 🙂

    • I feel like everyone has gone dumpster diving at some point. I often thought about preying on the freshmen dumpsters, where legends said you could even find working mini-fridges and tv’s, during my later years at university.

  7. “Why? Why would someone who didn’t have to climb inside a dumpster? Who would do that?” – Avery common misconception is that rich people spend money unnecessarily. Very smart rich people ( people call them cheap) look for ways to keep their money. Not all rich people are sponsored and receive the majority of their stuff free because they are walking billboards. And so what if you are in a Starbucks mopping floors waiting for your writing to take off? You are making an honest living. It’s temporary, and it is a job. “Hey, everyone needs boxes.”
    Really enjoy your writing.

  8. Always the Berry Hibiscus. Always you know. As a former Home Depot cashier, doing it just until I was through law school, how I commiserate. The job is a job is a temporary job concept is always a sad reality, but a relatable one. I love your writing. As for the dumpster diving, I suppose L.A. chic comes in the dumpsters too. I know in my younger years I managed to gain end tables, a sofa, etc. from them. Never did it for boxes, though!

  9. Reblogged this on Dream Big, Dream Often and commented:
    Meet CornGoblin!

  10. This was an unusual but very cool story. Reminds me of the Port Authority in NYC. Just crazy with the homeless trading places as the cops urged them, settling like ants over honey and this was their home. From one exit to another and the occasional dust-up that could be intense or the sad face of a grandmother clicking her heals and using her walker. All night and day it seemed…..

  11. This is the most hilarious thing I’ve read in a really long time. I love it.

  12. I’ll tell you this much: You can write.

  13. rosemeadow

     /  August 31, 2015

    I love your style, very digestible.

  14. Shana

     /  September 1, 2015

    This story is so cute. Where do you get the inspiration for these

  15. Great story! Keep writing!

  16. I am moving now. Boxes everywhere! But it was so hard to find good ones, here you can’t just order or something. I had to lower myself a couple of times to beg from stores, supermarkets. Once I even searched the trash of a store, they let me do it out of pity. I understand this completely – Everybody needs boxes! 🙂 Your style is excellent, the story was magical! Thanks for the read!

  17. Thanks for the laughs, I really enjoyed reading this! I used to work in a kitchen so I would take the trash out daily. I never encountered any humans in the dumpster, but there were plenty of vicious raccoons.

  18. Okay. really, you’ve never stolen boxes out of dumpsters? I’ve never crawled into one, but I’ve “recycled” boxes from the top of the pile – many times – for moves. Packing up a houseload of stuff needs lots and lots and lots of boxes. Love the story and the sense of wonder. A fun read.

    • I’ve thought about taking fridges or Couches from dumpsters during my time at university. I once took a TV from someone’s yard, right before the trash truck got there. It ended up having ants inside it, but it still worked.

      • Ha ha ha. Ants in the TV?! When I was a kid, my mom pulled an oak dining table and 6 matching chairs from the dump. A little TLC and 40 yrs later, she still has them. Reuse Recycle!

  19. Wonderful post, and a great read! I came for a quick look, and I’m definitely staying on.

  20. Thank you visiting my humble blog and taking the time to like my post. This made me laugh so much thank you xxx

  21. SO good. I really enjoy your storytelling!

  22. Brilliant! I tried to follow you on twitter, William, but looks like I hit my follow limit (again), so sorry about that. I’ve followed this blog though. You’re awesome!

  23. You seem to be a writer who thinks outside the box, and that’s what’s needed at the mall, any mall, every mall, every stall, every Starbucks and casting call.
    I like the way you compact humor, moving effortlessly from the ridiculous to the sublime while cultivating a denoument packed with heroic compassion.
    In the middle of a same-old-same-old day, you’re a real life-saver. And I really think, William, it’s every guy’s dream to meet a beautiful girl at a dumpster and save her life. You are truly living the dream, my friend. Keep up the good work. The world needs vigilant men like you whose heroic qualities are not boxed in by recycled sitcoms and women who’ve lost their way with starbucks in their eyes.
    Never give up, William, and someday your high-tossed bags will burst forth with incompactible profundity; your cast-aside cardboard will metamorphose as the stars that light up Hollywood on opening night, while all of cyberspace lights up at the sight!

  24. Love it 🙂 Kinda makes me want to grab and shake you though because now we’ll never know what she needed the boxes for… 😉


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