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Dumpster Diving: My Biggest Freshman Year Fail

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winona chapter.

College is definitely a learning curve, and for this reason there is often embarrassment associated with lessons learned the hard way.

Maybe it’s forgetting to pull a red sock out of a load of whites in a first laundry attempt, slipping on food on the cafeteria floor only to then spill all the dishes and silverware, or committing the walk of shame in a crowded lecture hall 15 minutes late… when it’s not even the right class.

For me, however, I made the grave error of taking out my garbage and tossing my ID in alongside it. My lanyard and keys remained safely in my dorm room, but my stupid, smiling identification card was swimming at the bottom of the mega-sized Waste Management dumpster.

Allow me to set the scene for you.

It was a Friday afternoon, I had just finished classes for the week that had completely exhausted me, and I had promptly placed my Easy Mac in the microwave for four short minutes. I took my ID sans protective lanyard sleeve—my lanyard has far too many key chains to be bothered with sometimes—and my garbage outside to throw it away to kill time while I nuked my food in the microwave.

Big mistake.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened at first. I live in the Quad, so I walked out the back doors that lead to the courtyard with both my ID and trash in my right hand. I lifted the lid of the trash bin and tossed my trash bag in but my ID also soared, and I mean SOARED, out of my hands into the dumpster.

You know that scene when Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff in the pursuit of the Road Runner, and he realizes a little too late as he’s frozen in mid-air that he’s soon going to plummet to the ground?

Yeah, I stood there just as shocked to my core that I had done that. I mean, this must be the epitome of embarrassing freshman moments. Somebody call Guinness Book of World Records!

Guys, my pants had pockets. POCKETS. Why didn’t I put my ID in my pocket?! I still wonder that as I’m writing this.

New Girl Nick Miller GIF Dingus
GIPHY / 20th Century Fox Television

Luckily for me, there are four doors in the Quad with people always revolving in and out of the building, so I could linger near for someone to help with my stupidity. A girl from Richards walked out with an umbrella and raincoat (because of course the day I did this it was 39 and basically torrentially sleeting) and noticed my obvious state of early-onset pneumonia and peril. I shamefully approached her and asked if she had the time to help me, and she so kindly said yes but that it would have to be brief because she was running late for class.

I explained my embarrassing shortcoming, and I told her there was no way I could climb into the dumpster without a little help. So she humorously involved her roommate who carried out her desk chair with an inquisitive look on her face while the other girl held the lid of the dumpster open for me.

Couldn’t I have just paid the $20 to get a new ID and forgotten this whole ordeal, some may ask. And yes, for most people that might’ve been the proper response. Nope, not me.

close-up of US one dollar bill

So as a financially unstable (and at this point emotionally unstable as well) college student, I decided to push down my dignity as I plunged into the dumpster. I made this mistake, and I was going to win the battle against the Waste Management monstrosity. I was determined to keep that $20 planted firmly in my pockets, which is where my ID should have been initially, but I digress.

After flailing around with my legs swinging wildly in the air for a few minutes, I felt something that was akin to my ID, but instead found a piece of a pizza box.

It’s surprising how many things feel similar to an ID while wading through a huge pile of trash, but thankfully after about ten minutes total, I saw my smiling card swimming among some ramen wrappers. I white-knuckled it as I proceeded to climb out of the dumpster and plant my feet firmly on the desk chair and then the ground.

My angelic Richards resident/savior and her roommate were equally thrilled for me that I had found it, and I helped them carry the chair back to their room (by scanning them into the building with my newly excavated card). I thanked them profusely but refrained from hugging them.

I’m new at this whole dumpster dive etiquette thing, okay?

After they got back inside, I practically sprinted inside the building and proceeded to place my ID in its rightful place and pulled my Easy Mac out of the microwave. Happy Friday, right? And now that I look back on the incident, I can laugh at the whole thing because it really is funny how freshman of a mistake it was that I made. Although, I do get flashbacks to the embarrassment when I think about how many snap stories I probably appeared on and how many jokes were made. But hey, one girl’s horrifying mistake is another’s “when it’s finally Friday” meme.  

Since this incident, I have not encountered any embarrassments quite as harrowing as this one, but it really makes a good story. While I could have lived without the experience of hoisting myself into a Waste Management dumpster and scrounging through piles of trash, I did discover a valuable lesson: do NOT take your ID for granted, because you’ll have a garbage time without it.

See what I did there?


My name is Hannah Hippensteel, and I like to say I'm a Chicago city-slicker, but I'm actually from the 'burbs. I'm currently a senior at Winona State with a major in mass communication-journalism and a minor in sociology. Catch me enjoying all Winona has to offer: the bluffs, the incomparable Bloedow's Bakery, and not to mention, Minnesota boys. With a goal of working at Teen Vogue, Seventeen or Glamour magazine, I'm soaking up every opportunity to keep my finger on the pulse and share my personal voice!
Hi I'm Emily and I'm from Appleton, Wisconsin! I'm a Mass Communication- Advertising student, with a minor in Art History at WSU. I like concerts, hockey, cooking, and dancing in the car. I also enjoy guacamole, french fries, and caramel iced coffees from Dunkin' Donuts. All I really want to do is travel the world, move to a big city, and spend my weekends on a lake. IG & Twitter @esheptoski