The odor wasn’t really a stench. More of the nagging, someone one needs to clean the cat box waft of bad cologne … Not really urine. A bit of stale water… a loading dock malaise sort of smell. This odor greeted me again, as I stood, about a dozen people or so back in line this morning, waiting my turn to push my cart of recyclables toward the scale at the recycling center.
The other folks waiting were a mix. An older African-American gent stood right before me. He was the one who had pointed out that my cart needed to be back several feet farther so the guys running the forklift could pass between us. In front of him, a couple of younger men that might have been homeless. At the front of the line, a young Hispanic guy, maybe college-aged. Hoodie worn loosely over his shoulders, earbud in, sunglasses on. Women were suspiciously devoid from the que at this hour.
Like me, each of them had their collection of recycling bins, cages or round plastic “trash cans” used to sort their different types of recyclables into. Plastics in one or two, depending on the little code stamped on the bottom, metals in another, and, for me, cardboard in another.
For some, this was their livelihood. The five or ten dollars they could scrape together collecting plastics and metal cans was their lunch money for the day. For the college kid, maybe bus fare.
For me, this was saving me the cost of paying for an extra trash run at our new apartment. This was my third trip down to recycle since the movers arrived with our belongings. Three trips with the car full of cardboard from the collapsed boxes, and mounds and mounds of newsprint paper the packers had wrapped our smaller belongings in. They also filled the empty cavities in each box with wads of the paper. So far, we haven’t found anything damaged… but I could have filled – and then some – the small dumpster in our building’s trash room with just paper and collapsed boxes.
Moving. First the excitement of new ventures. But, after the truck is gone – the burly guys with the wheeled dollies driving it away – the change of pace, the change of location, the change of friends, change of routine … even food, settles in like the relative who always points out the dark lining in any situation. Mr. Buzzkill is here.
We’re here. What have we done?
The reason we moved is wife’s job. She’s full of doubts as she faces the situation. She’s challenged, facing new frontiers, new goals, a new reality. She left behind the comfort and security. We’ve moved to a new reality. In our own little world, we’re the pioneers. We’re feeling the uncertainty now.
I’m left on the home-front, unpacking, arranging, driving, grocery shopping. I’m her support staff for now. Eventually, I’ll have to get serious about finding employment. But, for now – as I lean on my cart full of the boxes that transported our belongings to this new, unfamiliar city – I know my role is to be the support staff and keep her going by doing the things that need to get done at “home” – the things she doesn’t need to focus on.
We left behind the comfort of the established, the well-worn and familiar feel and smells of our previous location. We’re pioneers now. We’re striking out like gold prospectors. Well, not quite. She is employed, but in a new position. Unfamiliar. Learning the ropes. Trying to find those nuggets of value, as she works to secure her place in the new reality that is Los Angeles.
Our goals are to experience the new, to find the exciting, to see what lies outside of the familiar. But the memories of what we had: a larger home, stability in the workplace, friends and a city we were comfortable in, all linger in our memories while the chores of setting up new settle on our shoulders like a heavy pack on a long hike.
Even the customs of the new city take some getting used to. Oh, crap! I forgot to bring my bags, I’ve realized more than once as I wandered the aisle of the grocery store… too many items in the cart to safely carry back in just my hands. That’ll be another few dimes I give to the store, paying for the “paper or plastic” that would come gratis back in Indiana.
This third trip to the recycling center, with its unique odor of stagnant water and exhaust fumes from the nearby highway, is helping me focus. This is the new reality. The move has occurred. We’re here, for better or worse. We’re not the first to dump the old ways, the old life and begin anew in Los Angeles, we won’t be the last.
Recycling. Out with the old, and turn it into something new. The drivers run the forklifts around, picking up bins of old bottles, scrap cardboard, and whatever else Los Angelinos bring here to dispose of. The first step in turning the used and familiar, into something fresh and exciting.
This is also OUR first step in that process.
We’re turning the corner on the past. I’m not sure what our new will look like. As I push my ragged and crusty old blue cart full of used moving boxes up to the scale, I know we’re here. Pioneers. No turning back. It’s not quite 8:30 this morning as I get through the line of recyclers. More Angelenos have queued up behind me. Their bins of old ready to be turned in. Recycling.
That mountain of cardboard I’ve brought in gets weighed. The guy in the grey and orange shirt hands me a slip to take to the cashier.
The move netted me another $3.65 for all that cardboard.
Los Angeles and our future await.
But, first, coffee.