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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Talking Trash

TALKING TRASH
by Dan and Audrey Coffman

Archeologists love trash. For them it is a window into the Ancient Worlds. Trash and a couple of skulls: “Look, Clive! Here’s where the cudgel smashed into the frontal lobe!” These men and women labor under the premise that ancient tribes (e.g., the Anasazi, the Mayans, Lakers fans) left behind remnants of their everyday lives lying around, and that these became significant after centuries of dust and rock had buried them. Today’s trash is tomorrow’s laboratory.

I’ve noticed that to Mexicans trash is no big deal. In town, there are “basura” barrels, and, unless a fiesta is going on, the streets and sidewalks are clean and tidy. Farther out, however, trash is pretty much left wherever it lands. Even when it’s kicked around, blown away or carried off by dogs, it pretty much stays in the vicinity. I and my husband Dan, the cigar man, are prospectors, and discovered this when we ventured out into the wilds in search of buried gold. The gold we were seeking, as the story goes, was buried back in the 1930s by a Mexican ranch owner who was seeking a safe repository for his treasure. Our metal detectors did their job, finding strong signals in dozens of spots, but no gold. We unearthed only trash—shell casings, beer tabs, rusty bolts, wires—most identifiable. Others were a quandary, like the strip of carpet thingy—the one-inch piece of metal that anchors wall-to-wall around the edges of a room. My friends, we were in a pretty desolate spot and the houses or whatever was left of them had dirt floors. No “Rugs R Us” for hundreds of miles around. Figure that one out, my archeologist buddies.

Americans are preoccupied with trash. We catalog it, categorize it, double bag and triple bag it. We spend billions of dollars a year to move it as far away from us as possible. Let’s face it: It’s YUCKY! But, I wouldn’t want to be the archeologist many years from now, long after we Americans have died off, trying to figure out what life was like based on our trash, scratching his head and saying, “I think I’d better find a skull or two around here, 'cause the trash is missing!”