It was Sunday morning, and I guess the people in the two cars that pulled into the parking lot were on their way home.
Where can we dump this? the driver of the first car asked me.
Dump what? I asked, genuinely confused.
He gestured to his back seat. I peered in through the heavily tinted back windows and saw two large, black garbage bags taking up most of the small car’s back seat.
I told the man he should have left the garbage where he’d been camping. He shrugged. Either he’d been camping at the free campground where the Forest Service doesn’t provide trash cans because they don’t want to have to haul trash away, or he’d been staying at a cabin where the rental agreement stipulated all garbage had to be removed upon departure.
The three trash cans in the parking lot are metal and are stamped “32 gallon” on the lid. (Think about Oscar the Grouch, and that’s the size of our cans.) I told the man the cans in the parking lot aren’t intended as a depository for large bags containing a weekend’s worth of garbage.
Personally, I don’t mind if people fill the cans in the parking lot with all the trash from their weekend getaway. I’d rather people put their garbage in our cans than leave it on the side of the road. My boss, however, is adamant about not paying to have extra trash removed. He doesn’t want people who’ve camped elsewhere coming into to our campgrounds to dispose of their rubbish in our trash cans or dumpsters, and he doesn’t want people dumping a whole weekend’s worth of trash in the parking lot cans. I try to follow his orders—he is the boss, after all—even when I think he’s being silly.
So I told the driver of the car he’d have to take his two large bags of trash home with him.
What if I gave you and extra $10? he asked me.
My boss wouldn’t like that very much, I told him.
What if I did it when you weren’t looking? he asked me.
Well, then you probably should dump it right before you leave and be quick, I told him. I didn’t think I was giving him permission. I thought I was telling him how to avoid having me know what he was doing if he insisted upon doing what I had told him was not ok.
He handed me a $20 bill. He wanted to pay his own parking fee and for his buddy in the car behind him. I gave him his day pass and trail guide and said I was going to get his change. He said I should keep the change. At that point, I knew nothing I could do was going to stop him from leaving the garbage.
Sure enough, soon after he drove off into the parking lot, I heard the rattling of a trash can’s lid from near the restrooms. When I looked over, the man was shoving the big sacks of trash into a can.
The fellow who picks up our garbage came by not long after the man had deposited his trash. He emptied our cans and took it all away before my boss could see the overflowing receptacles. Good timing!
I kept the man’s money, but I didn’t put it in my pocket. Instead, I put the money in my accordion file where I keep the day’s receipts and wrote out two day passes. I told the drivers of the next two cars that pulled into the parking lot that an anonymous benefactor had paid their parking fees. The drivers were excited and grateful to park for free.
The man with the trash thought he’d bribed me, but instead I used his money to be kind to strangers.