April 5, 2011
Back in April of 2001 (Wow! That was 10 years ago!!!) I had just started working in the Air Force SEEK EAGLE Office at Eglin AFB, Florida. It was Earth Day and my unit had volunteered to go do some beach/bay clean-up. I hardly knew anyone yet, but I figured this was a great way to socialize and break some ice. We took a bus out to a somewhat “off the path” area of Choctawhatchee Bay where folks had been dumping junk for several years. We found refrigerators, washing machines and even a semi-buried jet ski. And mixed in among the “big ticket” items were just piles and piles of plain old Hefty-bagged garbage.
This must have been a dumping ground for decades based on the sheer amount of trash. We dutifully hauled all we could up the bank and loaded it onto waiting trucks. The trucks then carted it off to a proper dumping area a few miles away. Back came the trucks and we continued this circle-of-refuse. As we got down to the bottom (Hey! I see sand!), I started pulling out bags that had old tin beer cans with real pull tabs. Now this trash is starting to date itself. I figure that I must be grabbing stuff from the late 70s. I transfer the garbage from its decaying bags into fresh, new trash bags. As I finally get to the real bottom and start having to dig items out of the sand, I find something interesting. Among the rusted, shattered and eroded items is one fully intact glass Coca-Cola bottle. It appears to be filled with dirt and sand. That fact must have helped it not be crushed under the weight that had been piled upon it for all these years.
It may sound a little sad, but I felt a bit like Indiana Jones unearthing some ancient treasure. I was fascinated by the resilience of this glass object. I take it down to the bay and start cleaning it up. I use a stick to loosen the dirt inside and then flush it out as much as I can with water. It is still pretty nasty, but it is whole. Then I examine all the markings on the bottle. No way! That is just crazy! Right there on the bottom, in raised print, is the production date of this marvelous artifact. I had only been off the mark by about 10 years. In fact, this particular bottle had been produced on July 19th in the year 1970. Which just happens to be my exact date of birth! Call it Karma. Or maybe call it fate. But I can tell you that I felt a little bit of awe as I stood on that freshly cleaned patch of earth and contemplated the odds of finding THAT bottle in all of THAT trash. Not to mention the fact that this little Coke bottle, that was born on the exact same day as me, will probably be around well after I am gone. I took the bottle home and gave it a thorough cleaning. It is in perfect condition. Maybe one day I will be cremated and have my remains sealed up in this tough little hunk of glass. What a story my kids and grandkids would have to tell about the ashes in the Coke bottle…