Sharp Blades Spinning in Dark Places

When I started college, I went in knowing I would have a big loan to pay when I came out. As part of my financial aid package, I was able to do “work study” – work at the college and sign over the check to help with my tuition. My first job: 6 a.m. shift in the cafeteria scraping dirty dishes before they went into the dishwasher. Farm girl meets garbage disposal.

At home we didn’t throw any food waste in the garbage, nor did we have a garbage disposal. Table scraps went to the dogs and cats waiting outside the door. Vegetable peels and corn husks either went “out back” or to pigs or to cows. Today, I imagine a turkey carcass goes into the field where hopefully a bald eagle swoops down for a snack.

Blades spinning non-stop waiting for remnants to be shoved down the hole through rubbery black teeth. What could be good about blades spinning in a dark place?

At college, I was facing this dark place three days a week. Seeing a bowl of oatmeal come through on the conveyor belts… ugh, the worst. The commercial grade garbage disposal tried to refuse cold, gloppy oatmeal. It threw it back through the rubber flaps toward my face. After a few hits, I made a screen with my hands to stop it from landing in my eyes. I served one tour of duty. I couldn’t face it a second semester, even if it meant paying back a few more hundred dollars when I graduated. I begged to type and to do research for professors my second semester. I was promoted to a gopher for the Political Science department. A cleaner job and more interesting discussions.

Each house we’ve owned has had a garbage disposal. For some reason, it takes me a while to get acclimated to garbage disposals in a new house. How do I know what had passed through there? Are any remnants remaining? At one point my GD phobia was so strong I would recruit Bill to dig stuff out. “There’s something in the garbage disposal,” my voice small, horror show-esque. I can get spoons out easily. We have teaspoons like England, shorter handled than the American version. They can disappear completely into the dark hole. Over the last twenty years, at least 10 – 12 have met there death in there. I hesitate to add that I’ve killed three of those spoons in the last two months. The nylon scrubbers don’t fair too well either.

A few years ago, a friend remodeling his kitchen put in a turbo-charged disposal. After a fish dinner one night, he said, “It can even do fish heads.” Yup, there they go, feeding my fear of putting my hand down there to fish something out. After meeting the turbo disposal, I needed new tools: a flashlight and a knife to use as a kind of tongue depressor to open the black rubber flaps and peer inside.

The angst. Give me a farm dog and a pig.