This is one of those nightmare stories.
The kind you hope never happens to you.
But it did to this woman. She prefers to be nameless, for obvious reasons, but she has witnesses who can verify her story.
Here it is:
The woman always kept her jewelry in a Tupperware-type container in her bathroom. It contained her engagement ring, her wedding band, bands for each of her children, her grandmother’s tulip ring, and a diamond necklace her parents gave her for her 18th birthday.
Jewelry wasn’t something she’d been wearing during the quarantine. “I haven’t been wearing it much,” she says. “I haven’t been missing it much.”
On this particular day, her son’s school was having a drive-by graduation party. The woman decided to put on her rings and dress up.
The jewelry box was on the back of the toilet the last time she saw it. It wasn’t there. Then she got the icy feeling that the box somehow was knocked off and fell in the trash basket next to the toilet.
Coinciding with that realization was the thought, “This is trash day.”
“Literally, in my bathrobe, I ran out to the street. They had taken the trash. My neighbor saw them. He said ‘They just picked this up 30 minutes ago.’”
She ran in the house, quickly dressed, and ran back outside. “I flagged down the first recycling truck. I said, ‘I lost my wedding bands. I have lost my diamond rings, my grandmother’s ring. They’ve been taken away in the trash.’”
One of the workers said he’d call his supervisor. “Luckily, there were two sanitation supervisors nearby.”
The woman told the supervisors, “I am 100 percent positive they were in that truck.”
One of them said he wasn’t going to take her to the landfill, but he might be able to track down the truck if it’s still on the street. He said, “Would you be willing to go through the trash?”
He left to check on her truck. “He came back. He said, ‘Your truck has been running since 7. What time do you think they picked up your trash?”
She told him 9 or 9:30.
A supervisor checked again and then he told her they found her truck. He got them to stop and take it to the lot where they park garbage trucks. It was still parked in the lot where they unload them.
He said, “Are you willing to go through it?”
The woman said, “I know it’s there.”
He said, “You might want to change your clothes.”
She went home and changed. “I put on some black leggings, my galoshes, a T-shirt, and then I had some rubber kitchen gloves to my elbow, and a mask.”
The supervisors took her to the parking lot. One of them said, “OK. I’m going to dump out the first load. You might want to step back.”
Her reaction after the trash began pouring out? “Oh, my gosh.”
“I will have to say when they dumped that first wad out and it almost blew me over, I said, ‘God, if you’re up there will you find my grandmother ‘cause I’m going to need her help.’”
Then she told herself, “Well, I guess I’m going in.”
She thought, “I don’t know if I can do this.” She thought she might throw up. But, she says, “I had to put that in the back and I did it. And kept doing it.”
Sort of mind over matter. “I just started digging through it. So gross.”
The woman came up with a strategy. “I finally figured out, ‘Look for people’s Amazon packaging. Look for addresses.’”
She continued to dig. “Finally, I found one of my trash bags. I was like, ‘Now, I’m not quitting.’”
And she didn’t. “Once I was doing it and I found my trash, I was like, ‘I’m not going to quit now.’ How are you going to stop? You’re in the middle of it.”
The woman reflected at times as she searched through the garbage. “A lot of people don’t recycle, I noticed. A lot of people don’t do what they’re supposed to do.”
And, she says, “It was kind of fun when I found somebody’s Amazon package I knew.”
She knew she was getting closer when she discovered some crawfish heads and tails in a trash bag. “The Friday before that we had crawfish at a neighbor’s house. I opened the bag: ‘This is my neighbor from across the street. I promise it is.’
“It probably took another 20, 30 minutes before I found more of my trash bags. I knew it was in a Target bag in my little waste basket.”
The woman spent a total of about two hours digging through garbage. “All of a sudden I said, ‘This is it.’ He said, ‘Ma’am are you sure?’ I said, ‘I’m positive.’ He picked it up. The container had been mashed down. I couldn’t get it open. It was disgusting.”
She finally pried open the container. “Oh, my God. All of it. It was all there. Every single piece was in that container.”
It was sort of mind blowing. “I guess your adrenaline’s going when you’re looking and then you find it. It was a very bizarre, emotional feel. I screamed, ‘Hallelujah!’ I wanted to give these two guys a hug and they were like, ‘No. No.’”
Then she told them, “Can I help you pick this up?”
“They said, ‘No, madam. We’re going to get you home.’”
But one of the supervisors did say, “I’m going to have to take your picture. My wife is not going to believe it.”
This all happened on a Friday. “I was pretty exhausted from the emotional adrenaline part. I didn’t feel right until about Sunday and Monday. You start thinking about it in your head: ‘That’s almost unbelievable.’”
What if she hadn’t found the jewelry? “I guess I would have been really upset. Not really the value. Obviously, my engagement ring and all that could be replaced by insurance.”
But she was concerned about her grandmother’s ring, which is irreplaceable. “I love wearing older pieces from both my grandmothers and aunts. I just think they really make you feel closer to those people.”
The woman no longer leaves her jewelry on the top of the toilet. “You don’t think about how sentimental jewelry is. I’d have been pretty heartbroken.”