Writing Out Loud: IT IS NOT A LANDFILL

By George Stahl

The dump, disposal site, landfill, waste disposal site, all of these can refer to a place where you can get rid of your garbage, unwanted household items, yard gleanings and stuff you have had forever and no longer want. Surprisingly, too, it is a place where you can go to meet people, make new friends and have either a pleasant experience or experience a not so pleasant afternoon or morning.

The idea of having such a place right here in the KRV is very convenient and necessary. If you have ever lived in a place where a large number of people had to drive a considerable distance from home to take a load of space consuming junk, you know how disruptive such a trip can be. Waiting in a long line of cars, trucks of all sizes and shapes, and emission conditions, dealing with angry, grumpy staff when you need to cross the scales for entrance, and the inept directions you receive as to where to proceed to the point in the acreage of sand and diapers to offload your cargo.

As you crest over a recently completed dirt dune, you look down into the abyss of trash, garbage, and a seemingly endless sea of human refuse. Waiting your turn to drive into all of that can be daunting to the novice landfill attendee. The bulldozers, loaders and dump trucks criss cross in front of you as you take your turn in the pit. Then you remember how all of that stuff got into the back of your pickup truck. The same way it is going to get emptied. By you, by hand, outside of the cab. You open the door and all of the noise, and smells combined with the heat of the day, and the vapors of the gas created by the landfill itself descend on you with a vengeance. As you are dragging the stuff from the bed of your truck, you find yourself having to duck and dodge the barrage of dive bombing seagulls cawing and flapping their wings, searching for nourishment in all of that waste. Finally, you are empty, on your way out, hoping with everything you have in you that you do not make a wrong turn and get lost at the landfill.

The place we call ‘the dump’ is not an experience like that at all in the KRV. The first thing is, it is not a landfill. No battalion of bulldozers are working feverishly to move around trash, cover it with dirt, and repeat the process all day. The county facility outside the town of Kernville is a civilized transfer station. Sort of a stopover place for trash. The waste products brought here are separated, prioritized and then transported to a facility where they are pushed around, covered with dirt, and buried. This Kern County site is more a triage for garbage.

Because of that, the conditions and atmosphere here is more relaxed, friendlier and conducive to a getaway afternoon for the dump attendees. People come here to socialize as well as to unload their stuff. Nevertheless, there are certain informal protocols in place that help to keep it a pleasant experience. Not technically rules, but more like guidelines.
The first person you encounter is the attendant at the scales. This person is a county employee, and as such wields a certain amount of authority over the site. So, much like on the same lines as any interaction you would have with a civil servant, your time at the dump will be determined on your relationship with the person in the scale house. They will either have you weigh out as you leave, usually to determine a fee, or they will simply wave you on, with no fee. As a side note, it is imperative that you pay strict attention to their directions on this. It will certainly dictate your next trip here.

Once you enter the area of the dump where business takes place, you are in mixed company. Some of the workers are county employees, and some work for Thomas Refuse, but all are there to help. They really like it though when they see that you can speak ‘dump talk.’ That is not the same as trash talk. Dump talk is the language used to direct you while there. Leaves and grass, branches and trees, wood without nails or screws, these are designated to be dumped in a certain area, recently concreted. Metal, concrete, plastic, and tires, these are in separate areas around the dump, and should not be mixed with other mediums of trash. Then there is the direction to “take that inside.” Now you have to go around the building in the center of the dump and wait your turn to back up into a slot designated by an attendant. This is where a lesson in dump etiquette would probably be helpful. A transfer station novice will usually learn the hard way that you do not cross over into someone else’s lane as you back up. If you do, be prepared to hear a loud “no” or “stop” or some other command telling you that you are drifting and making someone very unhappy.

Immediate apologies and never do it again promises are the only way to diffuse the situation and are highly recommended. If the transgression was severe enough, you can even offer to help the person you encroached on to unload his trash. For the most part though, strangers at the dump are usually very understanding and kind to new dumpers.

An almost certain guarantee on a dump trip is that you will most likely see someone you know there. This will put a whole new slant on the visit. Conversation, camaraderie and catching up on news, gossip and exaggerated stories are shared and exchanged. Sooner than you know, you are empty and on your way out. Don’t forget though, either stop and weigh out, or watch for the hand to wave you on. And stay away from landfills.