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Head Coach: Unexpected lessons will tap you on the shoulder

By By Lane Johnson
June 28, 2012 at 1:28 a.m.


Who would have thought I could learn a life's lesson on a trip to the city dump? In all fairness, calling it a dump is inaccurate. It is euphemistically referred to as the Victoria City Landfill. Both terms are descriptive, though.

It is the place where all of our garbage is dumped. But, it neither looks nor is operated like a dump. From every approach, it looks like a hillside that just grows taller.

Not until you drive up this hillside to the crest do you realize it is actually a huge bowl of garbage, which is where I learned a recent lesson.

Living in the city limits, I benefit from municipal waste disposal services. Once a week, all I have to do is roll my city-issued trash receptacle to the curb and someone else hauls the contents away for me. Pretty cool.

There is a downside, however. Not everything fits in the receptacle. So it piles up in a discrete place in the backyard. Over time, it becomes less discrete. Like the city landfill, my dump site continues to grow.

Old rotten lumber from a couple of repair and remodeling projects has piled up. An old door lays propped against the fence right next to rusted out clothesline pole that has been leaning there for years. Eventually, I have to dispose of it myself.

My wife and I decided to make an adventure of it. One Saturday morning, we loaded all this debris into my trusty old pickup, Sparky. It was a ton of stuff.

Actually, it turned out to be right at half a ton, but it seemed like a ton of stuff. Sparky was piled high. I lashed it down with some rope and off we went to the landfill.

I explained to my wife that the city requires everyone at the landfill to wear hardhats and reflective vests, which they provide if you don't have your own.

"Oh wow!" she said, "We get to wear equipment."

Her intrigue diminished somewhat when the lady at the gate handed us our hat and vest. It was the tone of her voice that gave me concern when she mumbled, "Neon lime-green."

"See if they have this in pink," she instructed.

I knew better than to ask.

Once through the gate we headed up this road leading to the dump site. The incline became rather steep. I think it is the steepest road in the county.

In fact, the landfill just might be the highest elevation around. I was pondering what it meant to live in a town whose highest elevation was the city landfill, when the rope holding my ton of stuff broke. If anything slid off the back of Sparky, we would have to stop on a steep incline and collect it.

"No way," my wife remarked. "I'm wearing the wrong colors."

Fortunately, nothing fell off and we made it to the drop-off site. Backing the truck into an area for unloading, I began to obsess over whether I had got close enough. I stepped out of the truck and then back in to move it a pinch closer when my wife finally took a stand.

"Please, honey," she said. "This is not the time for you to get anal. It stinks up here."

She jumped out of the truck and started flinging lumber off the back. I think if I had let her, she would have unloaded the whole thing herself, including the rather heavy clothesline pole. Suddenly, my age-old neurosis, of which I had become quite comfortable and attached, was not the hot issue.

"Close enough," I mumbled and stepped out to help.

That's the lesson. Those deeply ingrained quirks we all have that seem to become unchangeable, and even somewhat comfortable, can suddenly disappear in a flash when right perspective presents itself.

I was thinking about that as we drove off when I looked over to my wife. She was fluffing her hair from the squashing it took from that neon, lime-green hardhat. She looked back at me, chuckled and said, "You take me to the nicest places."

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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