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December 20, 2018

Last Friday several hundred dollars of our food and gear were mistakenly collected as garbage, crushed, and sent to landfill.

This was quite annoying.

Following advice we’d received earlier on the trip from a government-employed park ranger, we stored food in the back of the bear-proof bins found at picnic spots and campgrounds. Early in the morning the bin was emptied, along with our stuff.

We went to the Goose Sanctuary up the road from our campsite to ask the Manitoba Parks employee (Adam) for help in getting our stuff back. Our explanation was met with laughter and disbelief, but also a willingness to help. He radioed around to find out who emptied the bins and whether our stuff had been found, then tried to extract information about who gave us the advice in the first place. Presumably so they could be disciplined.

I resisted the attempts to snitch: it may have been awful advice but the giver was nice, and was trying to help.

Then we sat in limbo in Rennie Hotel for an hour or so, eating breakfast and waiting for a call to let us know whether our stuff was in landfill or elsewhere.

We chose a window seat so we could see our bikes, feeling a higher baseline vigilance about our bikes and gear.

We mentally added up the value of what was taken.

Our toothpaste and brushes were in the bags too, so I felt self-conscious for a bit.

We tried not to think about the state of our 12 eggs.

No call came so we headed back to Adam and he suggested going to the Manitoba Parks office further up the road. Here more calls were made, more disbelief was shown, and some sympathy was given (bordering on hinting that we were idiots for following the original advice: “I guess the best thing to do next time, would be to not keep your bags in the garbage”).

To clarify now: our stuff was not “in” the garbage. It was in a separate section accessible only from the back of the bin, in a sort of drawer under the bag of rubbish.

After waiting a while we overheard a radio receiver: “oh yeah that load is gone, it’s been crushed already in the truck and sent to landfill”.

Crushed along with our hopes and dreams.

“What shall we do?” I asked Kristian.
“Keep riding our bikes”.

So we set off.

I felt annoyed for the first few miles. Then I realised that the cost and effort to resolve the situation is the same either way, so I may as well not be annoyed. The rest of the day was spent trying to reconcile that realisation with actual acceptance.

While we ate a multi-pack of cereal for lunch, a Manitoba Parks garbage truck pulled up. It was pretty light duty, to the point where recently added garbage would probably be salvageable. So I asked the lady driving it what she thought of the situation. She said the stuff would be somewhere in the back of a pick-up truck (“the big garbage trucks don’t empty the site you lost your stuff from”), or at the Jessica Lake recycling site, or on its way to the big disposal facility in Winnipeg. She seemed genuinely sorry for us and didn’t seem to think we were idiots, which was reassuring (“if I’d seen camping gear under the bin, I’d have left it there”).

Kristian and I debated what to do for a while. Detouring to Jessica Lake and trawling through the top-layer of landfill seemed a viable option to me considering the cost of the gear involved, but time was ticking. Every minute presumably meant more garbage being dumped on our stuff, and we weren’t sure how far away Jessica Lake was. Calling the operator from the payphone didn’t work, an entry in the phone book returned only robotic apologies, and there was no wifi.

We reluctantly decided to bite the bullet and abandon our stuff.

This was also when we realised we’d lost the huile d’olive.