Apartment Living, Dumpster Diving, and the Heiress

Posted on September 14, 2017


After a fire destroyed our home last January, we moved to our RV for a week or so, and then to an apartment.

In case you have been a homeowner for long time and forgotten, apartment living is somewhat different.

You’re not protected from your neighbors by trees and shrubs and walls, quietly minding your own business behind the walls and windows of your home.

Here everyone rubs shoulders, see each other as we dump our trash and garbage into the dumpster, chat for a second at the mail station, and go about our business like on a stage. Everyone is part of the play.

When it’s nice, I’ll hang out on my third-floor apartment porch in the late afternoon and early evenings. I’m an inveterate people watcher and this is the perfect place for people watching.

The little kids prance along with their parents, teen agers come and go, trying to keep as far away from their parents as possible, young mothers push babies in strollers, oldsters, probably having moved here to live with caretaker children, creak along, and the working guys and gals, all hustle off early in the morning and return late in the afternoon or evening.

Some are in trucks, their work logos displayed prominently, other are schoolteachers, many work for UA. Lots of Germans are employed at the Mercedes plant, and I have run into a smattering of Asians, Hispanics and I even met one couple from South Africa. I hear Spanish frequently, and on Sunday nights when the German families are grilling out by the pool, it sounds like the Hofbrauhaus in Munich.

When I came to Tuscaloosa in 1972, I think the only foreign language speakers were teaching it in Comer Hall at UA. Now my apartment complex is a beehive of the world.

Apartment dwellers, especially those who might have had a tough day, zoom in, but the speed bumps slow them down so they don’t gun over children coming or going to the pool area.

Our apartment has everything we need, a Publix across the street, banks, McDonald’s, ethnic restaurants, and given what the local neighborhoods look like, a most upscale population.

Apartment dwelling has a different dynamic to it. I now have a girlfriend. Her name is Natalie and is five years old and is a cutie who has a new dog and she loves to chat.

“Where are the Poodles?” she asked one afternoon, referring to our two Standard Poodles, Miller and Dudley.

“Ah, taking their naps Natalie.” And she drifted on as I returned to my apartment, thinking it’s nice to have new friends like Natalie.

William, a wounded, and retired, Army veteran, and I chat whenever we see each other, usually passing in the parking lot. We share the service connection and that is another bond.

Living in the apartments is of course a leveling experience itself. One of the truly equalizing factors is tossing our garbage into the Dumpster. Most bring their garbage bags in their trunks, or tossed on top of their hoods. Everyone slings their garbage into the Dumpster like garbage men, even some of the ladies dressed to the nines and in heels, on their way no doubt to a white-collar job.

My wife Louise has adapted well. She found a nice little table at the Dumpster a few months ago, and it now sits proudly in our balcony alcove with a couple of plants on it.

Louise introduced me to Dumpster diving. I had seen some people occasionally going through the articles deposited next to the Dumpster in a special bin for things like lamps, toasters, vacuum cleaners, and the like, some probably still working, some needing some TLC. A lot is thrown away as people move out of the apartment complex.

There is a protocol around the Dumpster. Real trash and garbage goes into the big bin. Salvageable and other items like chairs, grills, etc. go into the space reserved for “divers” at the end of the big bin.

One day I stopped to see what was new in the diver’s part of the Dumpster. That’s when I saw the table.

My wife came down and said, “perfect, it will go so well back in our place,” and we carried it off. Oh, and the title to this little piece. Wife is the heiress but sees no conflict in what was left to her by her parents and grandparents and picking up a useful piece or two at the Dumpster.

Published as “Apartment Living, Dumpster Diving, and the Heiress,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday July 30, 2017