In the late 1970’s I lived in a second floor garden apartment in Budd Lake, NJ. My apartment was the last one at the end of the building and just beyond the building was the dumpster surrounded by a wooden fence.
One beautiful summer night, I took the full bag of garbage from my kitchen and went down the stairs out the door to the parking lot, took a left turn and walked to the dumpster. As I stepped into the shadows in the wooden enclosure I stepped on something. Not in something, ON something. I couldn’t see a thing but it was big and it was HAIRY. I could feel the fur right through my sneaker.
You know, people often say that the human brain is like a computer, but it’s not. It’s more like a slot machine. Something happens, the cylinders spin and when they line up you have an answer. It’s dark, I’m at the garbage dumpster and I just stepped on something big and hairy. The cylinders spun and up came the answer “It’s a BEAR!”. I’ve stepped on a bear.
[Wildlife note for those who are not rugged outdoorsmen – bears do not like to be stepped on.]
I reacted immediately at a speed I doubt I could react today. I turned and ran. I ran and ran and ran for my life, heading back to the door to my apartment. I didn’t are look back for fear I would trip and be set on and killed by the rampaging bear I was certain was only inches behind me.
I ran so hard I thought my heart was going to explode. The door came closer and closer but I wasn’t sure I could get there in time. I knew I could not outrun the bear but if I could only get there I knew the door was unlocked and opened in. Otherwise I’d be slammed against the wall and torn to shreds. I got to the door, ran inside and slammed the door behind me, reaching up to lock the door. Even then I knew I wasn’t safe as there was frosted glass panel and the bear could smash through and reach in to get me with his six inch claws.
I lay there, gasping for breath, only then realizing that I still had my bag of garbage! I was so terrified I couldn’t even think of tossing it aside, maybe to distract the bear from my sweet, juicy flesh. When I had gathered the strength and the bear had not come crashing through my door, I slowly crept upstairs to my apartment, still holding my garbage. I didn’t want to leave in downstairs where the bear could be tempted by it. I went to my balcony which overlooked and parking lot and looked for the bear but there was no sign of him. Perhaps he had left or was back in the dark around the dumpster. I was a pretty lucky guy.
The next day I went out with my garbage and only then did I discover that someone had tossed a rolled up carpet in front of the dumpster.