In college, I played basketball with a famous movie actor and met a woman who carried her garbage on her back. Both in the same day. The actor was Woody Harrelson and despite what his movie would tell you, white men can jump. Pretty high actually, and possibly because he was high on something other than new Nike smell.

The woman was the activist Julia Butterfly Hill, also capable of high jumps, mostly from endangered redwoods, and also likely high on something other than the smell of tree sap. Both personalities came to my school as part of a speaking engagement on global affairs. Julia Butterfly Hill delivered an impassioned plea to be conscientious stewards of the planet. To emphasize her point she showed the audience photos of herself carrying her trash for an entire summer. Hoisted on her back were large bags containing orange peels, burritos, maxi pads, and fallen members of Lilith Fair.

It had a powerful effect on those in the auditorium, and we all left ready to heap trash upon our shoulders and fell opponents with our lofty ethics and potent odor. Metaphorically, of course, because carrying burdensome loads could cause curvature of the spine and no one was going to marry the trash girl with a hunched back, who failed organic chemistry. So I spent the next decade putting my refuse down a chute or in a can.

Until we moved to Maine.

As we were unpacking boxes, our realtor delivered a memo with numbers and contacts for local services, among them trash removal.

“We have to hire someone to pick up trash,” I asked my husband, G.

“We don’t have to,” he replied. “We can take our stuff to the dump.”

Clearly he’d not understood me. I wasn’t just balking at the notion of paying another to deal with our waste; I was astonished that trash wasn’t simply taken away by men clinging to the back of a garbage truck, like they’d done in every place I’d ever lived. I did not want to go to the dump. I did not want to carry my garbage. The part of my brain influenced by Julia Butterfly Hill had withered when my children were born and my home became a 2,000-square-foot Diaper Genie.

The garbage began to pile quickly and it became clear that a trip to the dump was in order. G loaded up the back of his car with boxes and bags and set off on his maiden voyage. I figured he’d return begging me to coordinate waste removal. Unfortunately, he happened upon some discarded Y chromosomes at the dump and came back invigorated and proud. He’d driven a truck that hauled heavy stuff that he got to heave into steel containers. He got a little sweaty and a little dirty. This is the stuff of men.

Since that fateful day I’ve had to pick up my share of dump runs since G is often away on business. The dump is a strange wasteland filled with disposal rituals I have yet to understand. I’ve noticed the old-timers pass through the security gate with a simple wave, but the man stationed there eyes my car suspiciously as if the three babies in the back are looking to take out subscriptions under names lifted from discarded magazines. Once we are granted access to the grounds, my head dizzies at the mess of steel cages categorized by a system that only a Ph.D in waste management could decipher.

I start with the simple stuff, like milk jugs. Why does the sign read Gray Unpigmented? My hair is turning gray and my skin is woefully unpigmented. This must be my bin.

Toss the jars in this dumpster. Oh, those should not have had caps nor labels on them. Next time, next time.

Dispose of the plastic bags that held my non-gray, non-pigmented jugs and the jars that shouldn’t have had caps and labels but did.

Ah, Plastics! Wait, Colored Plastics only. No Clear Plastics. My bag is clear but there’s a grocery store logo in red. Hmmm. Get wild, toss it in.

Oh no, this Paper Goods container was just for egg cartons from cage-free farms in Ohio. Next time, next time.

The trip to the dump concludes at the trash hopper with its pit that burrows straight into the depths of Hell. I swing the bag out of the back of my car only to gash my leg open on a shard of glass protruding from the sack. I lug the bag to the edge of the hopper as my femoral artery bleeds out. I pick it up and use all of my strength to heave it over the edge. Much like standing on the precipice of the Grand Canyon, looking into the abyss, there is a moment of panic that I’ll forget to release my grasp and be pulled into the gorge.

Limping back to the driver’s side, I spy a wooden crate that held clementines forgotten in the back. I glance left and right, scanning the barren landscape for the “Wooden Crates Used to Hold Imported Floridian Citrus” bin. What the heck? I chuck it into the garbage pit. The alarm sounds and a rubber-clad man rushes to the scene to discuss the importance of trash sorting. Next time, next time.

After toting around my own garbage for the past year, I know why Julia Butterfly Hill seems so high. And it’s not on life.