Vineyard Dump is Role Model

Vineyard Dump is Role Model

Aquinnah (formerly Gay Head) Massachusetts – In the midst of a national paroxysm of budget bloodletting that would make Sweeney Todd queasy, the town dump here is dramatically expanding its hours. I am not complaining. I come not to bury The Dump, but to praise it.

Somebody still thinks we can – or, at least, can recycle our cans and bottles and deposit our summer debris three days a week, as opposed to two. The Dump is now open on Saturdays, to the exquisite relief of summer residents. Washington may be broken and bent on inducing a worldwide financial panic, but common sense reigns in the town of Aquinnah, Massachusetts, where I own half of a cottage.

(A note to my esteemed copy editor: I know dumps no longer exist, all being long buried, literally, and that the correct term is Sanitary Refuse, Composting and Recycling Transfer Station, but let it go. Everyone calls it The Dump.)

When I first set foot on this summery idyll decades ago, The Dump was open 24/7, self-service, drive-through. You didn’t have to slow down: you could toss the bag out the car window with your pedal to the metal, easy as pie. When you got home, you’d have the vestiges of skunks clinging to all four tires.

The memory of those halcyon days brings tears to my dilated pupils. Once, way back, a friend’s wife decided to straighten up the cottage (for no discernable reason) and inadvertently tossed out a stash of home-grown agricultural product, whose scientific name escapes me. When we figured out what had happened, the gloom of the evening was descending. Undaunted, we grabbed flashlights and a pitchfork, leap into our car, and headed for The Dump. It took a while, but we found our bag and tore it open. We proceeded to dance atop the malodorous midden like bacchantes on spring break.

But the times they were a changing’. As Gay Head (the name was changed a dozen years ago in a close town vote) became increasingly popular and populated, absolute freedom gave way to regulations. There were paper and cardboard and cans and bottles to separate (the last by color); construction materials had to be trucked down island, weighed, and paid for by the pound, like swordfish; and toxic waste was forbidden. The Dump was open only two days a week (Thursday and Sunday) for a few hours, and you paid by the bag.

It’s been this way for decades. Why was The Dump open on Sunday, the proverbial day of rest, as opposed to Saturday? No could figure it out, especially the summer people, who generally arrived and departed on Saturdays and had no place to put their last crop of garbage before returning to America, as the mainland is known out here.

Some assumed that the reason was so we part-time islanders would truck our trash home with us, in the very same car with the screaming kids, the smelly dog, and the omniscient spouse. Heck, what harm could leaky garbage bags stuffed with lobster leavenings and soggy diapers do on an eight-hour odyssey?

If this was the theory, it was colossally flawed, and after mere decades, the town has seen the light. What people would do before this year’s municipal epiphany – some people, not all people, mind you, no one I know – was to take their household flotsam and jetsam and drive haltingly around town looking for already overflowing public garbage cans that were not being surveilled by the local constabulary. Call us – rather them – the Aquinnah Trash Partiers, mad as hell and bent on organized littering. We wanted more government, not less, and were willing to pay for it.

Come Sunday, the town Highway Department, which consists of one person, would gather up the far flung detritus that otherwise law-abiding citizens, Republicans and Democrats alike, would happily have deposited, at $1.25 per bag, in said Dump, had it been open on Saturdays.
There’s a larger lesson here somewhere.