It was my first real job. I was 19 and I was the Admin (in those days I was called a Secretary) for the Accounting Department of a large corporation in White Plains. It was a great job. I loved it.
One of the responsibilities I had was to collect money from the department for a group gift if someone was getting married, having a baby or retiring. In this case, a woman I worked with was having a baby.
I collected that damn money for over a week. On my way to lunch one afternoon, I stopped by some cubicles to collect more money. With my wallet and money envelope in hand, I continued on to the cafeteria to meet a friend. I don’t remember what I had for lunch that day. What I do remember is when I got back to my desk an hour later (yes, lunch hour used to actually be a full 60 minutes), I felt like something was missing.
My appetite? Yes, because I just satisfied it. But that wasn’t it. My wallet? No, I had that. Oh, maybe I needed to apply more lipstick. So that’s what I did. Applied more lipstick. But that nagging “something is missing” feeling wouldn’t quit. As soon as I realized it, the blood ran from my face. The money envelope. That is what was missing. The damn money envelope.
I knew it really wasn’t in my purse. Or in my desk. Or in the copy room. But I checked anyway. Then I ran my young ass as fast as I could in my 3.5″ heels back to the cafeteria. I searched the entire dining room and found nothing. Then it dawned on me that the envelope must have been left on my tray. Where did I put my tray? On the conveyer belt. Where my uneaten food and dirty dishes were led into the kitchen. And the money was led to its’ next life. A life it was not originally intended to have.
After being interrogated by the manager, not one person working in the kitchen saw it. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to believe everyone was as honest as I was. My large white envelope that said “GIFT MONEY” in big black marker and contained $150 inside must have surely been overlooked and dumped right into the trash. Surely.
I was completely panic stricken. What the hell was I going to do? Well, the only thing any smart young woman in this situation would do. Go dumpster diving. Yup. Heels, lipstick and all. The head of maintenance was kind enough to lend me a yellow rain suit. Along with matching boots and shower cap. I looked more like a Hazmat worker. At this point, I was wishing I was one. Sitting in a room with hazardous waste sounded much more appealing than throwing myself into a dumpster containing people’s uneaten food and God knows what else.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture. But I’m pretty sure I can paint one for you. I jumped into that dumpster in my yellow, over-sized attire feet first and ripped through every single black garbage bag. All the way to the bottom. After about thirty minutes, I came up empty.
With my tail between my legs, I had to go back to every one of my coworkers and ask for another donation. The funny thing is, not one person minded. At all. I could have saved myself some humiliation. I guess I wasn’t as smart as I thought.
As for the money? All I can say is some cafeteria worker woke up to some luck that day. And one Lesson learned for me. I removed myself from the collection duties and assigned it to someone else. There was no way I was going back in that dumpster. Ever.