I debated for a long while whether to post this or not, but things like this don’t happen every day, and when they do you are duty bound to write about them on your internet blog- otherwise, what’s the point?
So, here is the story about how I accidentally went dumpster diving.
It starts with my little sister Hilary, which should not surprise anyone who knows Hilary. She is vivacious and impassioned, does spoken word poetry and poses nude for art classes. She leaps to life on the silver screen and is equally comfortable behind the scenes; she’s a force of nature.
She also has a way of talking about things so that they seem completely logical and reasonable at the time, when at any other time and from any other person you would be horrified/appalled/concerned/what have you.
While we were in Victoria last week the following exchange happened:
Me: So, what are you up to tonight?
Hilary: Oh, a friend of mine is coming over and we’re going dumpster diving.
and I was silent.
I was silent because a) Was this some sort of jargonish euphemism that I, being old and married and a mom simply wasn’t getting? and b) was this a thing? Was dumpster diving, (if she meant ACTUAL dumpster diving in every real literal sense of the word), was dumpster diving a thing like planking, or coning? I mean if you clicked on either of those links you really can’t blame me for being genuinely bewildered.
Nonetheless I was loath to disclose how terribly uncool I truly am, so I just assumed a neutral facial expression and said something like, “Oh?”, which was meant to show that I both knew what she was talking about (I didn’t) and was deeply familiar with the practice, having done it several times myself in my youth (which I hadn’t).
Thankfully she elaborated, and upon further discussion it became clear that no, this was not a euphemism, and no, this was also not the new thing. Apparently Hilary had been talking with some of the residents at the Unis’to’ten camp when they shared that they had saved more than 7000 lbs of food from the landfill by dumpster diving.
It was both practical – to save money- and a sort of act of resistance, a slap in the face to our wasteful, appearance-obsessed North American culture that throws out perfectly good food because of a blemish or a bruise.
Hilary had related this story to one of her friends a few days earlier, and her friend got all excited and then they decided to do it. Dumpster dive, that is.
So that was an interesting conversation, and I remember sitting there trying to suspend judgement (because one of my worst flaws is that I tend to judge harshly – others, and myself) and so I wiped my mind clean of any preconceived notions and I said to Hilary genuinely and without a trace of sarcasm, “Good luck! I hope you guys find something good.”
And that was that. End of conversation.
That day Olive and I accompanied my mom to a farmer’s market where Olive tried all sort of new foods and bounced around unsteadily to live music, it was a long day in the sun and at the end of it we headed home and Olive got bathed and put into bed, and mom and I followed shortly thereafter.
Here’s where it starts to get interesting.
The next morning I am sitting there looking like the girl from The Ring (which is how I always look in the morning), blearily sipping hot water with lemon (which, by the way, is a poor substitute for the coffee with which I am having a deep love/hate relationship lately) when Hilary comes in the door.
I am in one of the bedrooms but Mom’s place is just over 400 sq feet so I can hear everything. I hear her come in, then the rustle of some bags and then I hear her say to my mom “…I got a whole box of bean and cheese burritos, some salad greens and a bunch of other stuff.” and the sound of her loading these items into the fridge.
Now, at this point, clearly you know what’s up. I however, DID NOT.
Remember, it was the morning and I was The Ring and I was bleary, as I always am in the morning because I truly believe that I am utterly incapable of going to bed before 2 am. (I just can’t!) So I was bleary and it was the morning and I didn’t see Hilary or the stuff she put in the fridge and in my morning schlubbiness I remember thinking “Oh cool, she picked up some groceries on the way here.” and I don’t have any more excuses as to why I missed putting 2 and 2 together. But here we are. And there I was. Hours away from accidental dumpster diving.
That day we all went to the petting zoo and walked around and swung on swings and climbed baby climbing walls and walked for what felt like weeks.
It was another long day that ended with Olive screaming with outrage from the injustice of being in her stroller for the last half hour of the walk, so when we got home and after she went to sleep Mom and I were both exhausted and we didn’t feel like cooking and so she said, “Let’s just make some of those burritos Hilary bought” and I said “Okay.”
I SAID OKAY.
Needless to say, at that moment Mom was as clueless about the origin of those burritos as I was.
She put them in the oven and we waited and waited and five minutes before the timer went off I yelled “I can’t take it anymore! I’m so effing hungry!” and my Mom was like “But they’re going to be cold in the middle” and I was like “NO 1 CURR!” and I snatched the burrito from the oven and onto my plate and THEN. That’s when I took a good look at it.
It looked strange. The burrito shell was cracking and had a weird texture. I gingerly poked at it and a piece broke off under my finger. It looked gross and fake and entirely unappetizing.
I turned to my mom with great excitement in my voice and said “Mom! Are these gluten free?”
And she replied, “Yes!”
And I was like OMFG! As if a delicious bean and cheese burrito could get any better, I mean a GLUTEN FREE bean and cheese burrito? I had won the delicious beany cheesy burrito lottery!
I ate the ish out of that burrito. I ate it all and then ate half of my moms and it was delicious and savoury and I wanted like eight more but I do have some small shreds of dignity left in my life so I just ignored my fierce burrito cravings, gathered the dishes and started filling the sink.
As I was filling the sink I could feel the weight of those one and a half burritos filling my belly, and I started thinking.
“Hmm”, I thought to myself, “Gluten-free stuff is expensive. That sure was nice of Hilly to buy it for us.”
And then I thought, “Wait, didn’t she say she bought a whole box?” and I paused in my dishwashing to open the freezer and, yes, indeed there was a whole box of Amy’s delicious gluten free bean and cheese burritos, around 18 of them.
“Woah,” I thought. “That must have been expensive.”
I knew they were expensive because they always have them at convenience stores, and when you are stumbling around drunk at 2 am and looking for a snack and all that’s open is a convenience store and you are scanning the shelves for something healthy, you are SO gratified to find a gluten-free something that you will happily pay the $3-$4 they are charging for a tiny frozen burrito.
So all of that was sort of swirling around in the background of my head, while the burrito(s) swirled around in my guts.
Then it slowly began dawning on me that “Hey. Hilly doesn’t have any money, she’s not working right now.”
And then I started thinking, “Those burritos are packaged for individual sale, yet she somehow bought a box of them. That’s kind of weird”.
And then snippets of the previous day’s conversation drifted into my head.
And then snippets of that morning’s conversation drifted into my head.
And then other things drifted into my head. Things like …dumpsters.
I ran to my phone and texted Hilary.
“HIlary” I wrote feverishly, “Did you get these burritos from a dumpster?”
“Yeah!” was the immediate, happy response.
“I ATE ONE” I replied
“That’s okay, help yourself! There’s lots!” she wrote back.
“DID I SERIOUSLY JUST EAT A DUMPSTER BURRITO!!” I asked frantically, and I think the pixels of the words were probably vibrating with my anxious panic.
“Well it wasn’t really a dumpster. It was more of a compost..type…bin. With some garbage in it.” she replied
“The box was still sealed!”
“IN A DUMPSTER!”
I threw my phone on the ground with great conviction and started freaking the eff out. Was I going to die? What had I done? Why had I finished my mom’s dumpster burrito in addition to MY dumpster burrito? Double dumpster burrito, what did it mean??
I needed to know why they had been thrown out. I’ll have you know that our dear friend the all-knowing Google was completely effing useless in answering this question. Googling “dumpster burrito” yielded a bunch of nonsense and then this gem, which of course WALMART:
Google completely useless, my anxiety grew. I had to get to the bottom of this! The damage was done and all that could fix it now was the soothing salve of knowledge and curiosity sated.
I started texting my other sister Mawney. I explained what was going on and then asked “Why do you think that they would have thrown out an entire sealed box of gluten free burritos?”
“Because they expired?” she suggested
“No! I checked the expiration date, they’re good.” I replied.
We tossed around a few more ideas (thrown out by accident? halfway thawed and couldn’t be sold? gluten free stuff tastes like ish and no one was buying it? [this was Mawney’s suggestion, clearly])
Finally she had enough of my panic and said “Look, you already ate one-”
“-one and a half” I interrupted.
“Alright, you already ate one and a half, do you feel sick?”
“No”, I answered.
“Were they good?”
“Yes” I replied, truthfully. (I mean they were good.) “I wish I could eat five more.”
“Well do it! You already ate one-‘
“-one and a half!”
“Yes, yes. One and a half. You already ate one and a half and you’re clearly fine, so who cares? ”
“But why? WHY would someone throw out an entire BOX of perfectly good gluten free burritos?”
The conversation circled thusly for approximately thirteen hours and during every minute of that conversation I wished with my whole being that I was eating another burrito but also couldn’t get past the dumpster, and also the WHY?! Why did this happen?
Which brings me to the real point to this post, and the reason that I have risked my reputation by outing myself as a dumpster eater, WHY WOULD A GROCERY STORE THROW OUT AN ENTIRE CASE OF PERFECTLY GOOD (?!) GLUTEN FREE BEAN AND CHEESE BURRITOS?
Internets, please, PLEASE provide me with an answer. I am slowly descending into burrito-induced madness.
Yours in dumpsters,