Love In A Landfill

Florida husband Brian McGuinn accidentally threw out his wife's $10,000 custom-made diamond engagement ring. He tells host Michel Martin how he waded through a massive pile of garbage to find it.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Switching gears now, we know Valentine's Day is pretty far off, but every now and again, you come across a beautiful story about what love will make you do and you just have to share it.

This is a story about a man and a woman and an engagement ring, and a really big, nasty pile of garbage. I bet you know where I'm going with this. A little over two weeks ago, in Florida, Brian McGuinn's wife, Anna, handed him her $10,000 custom made diamond engagement ring to safeguard in her ring box while she took a shower. At the same time, he was holding a rusty, old razor to throw out. I think you all know what is coming, but I'll leave it to Brian to fill you in. And he's with us now. Welcome.

BRIAN MCGUINN: Hey, how you doing? Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Great. And when did you realize that you have thrown out the ring?

MCGUINN: Well, I realized it the moment my wife woke me up and asked me where it was.

MARTIN: So what did you do?

MCGUINN: Actually, I ran right to the dumpster in, you know, hopes that the trash truck hadn't arrived and, as I ran out, I saw the truck going the other way.

MARTIN: So then your wife called Waste Management, which is the company that handles trash in your area. And what did they tell you to do?

MCGUINN: Well, what they did was they found the truck and then they gave me a special part of the landfill where they would dump all six tons of the trash so I can sort through it in the hopes of finding it.

MARTIN: Can you just give us a sense of how big an area this is that you were trying to search?

MCGUINN: Sure. It was about 30 yards long and about 10 feet high. It was like a swimming pool, if you will.

MARTIN: And speaking of being like a swimming pool, it was like a swimming pool of what? And I realize that people are at different points in their day and somebody might be eating, so maybe if you give it a little bit of a hint.

MCGUINN: Well, rotten food, diapers, broken glass, just a variety of nasty things.

MARTIN: So did you ever say to yourself, I'm not doing this?

MCGUINN: It was such a daunting task, I mean, the smell of it made me physically ill. Even with a mask on, I had to vomit, actually. I was so ill just walking in there. It's a smell I'll never forget.

MARTIN: Oh, I bet, I bet. But then, at some point - so how long were you there? And you just - you know, you'd been already told, look, don't get your hopes up.

MCGUINN: Yeah.

MARTIN: But, you know, you decided to plunge in anyway. And then what happened?

MCGUINN: Well, you know, I knew the general idea of what my bag - it was a white bag and I just started looking for this one particular type of white bag and anything that looked like it. I was starting, all the way, at the top of the pile, which was, again, 10 feet high. So, finally, this nice guy, Joel Ryan, came by and he actually leveled the stack with a bulldozer, which helped me a lot.

MARTIN: So then what happened? You saw what? Like, you saw something?

MCGUINN: Basically, what happened was - my wife is pregnant and she likes this particular type of yogurt, Menchie's. And I happened to see a Menchie's bag. I looked at it and, sure enough, there was the bag. I pulled the bag away from the pile and dumped it out. Now, I don't tie my bag when I throw it away, which I probably should do, but I don't. And after dumping it out and looking through it vigorously, there was no ring.

MARTIN: Oh, no. So then what happened?

MCGUINN: So what I did was, I went back to the pile and I was sort of towards the bottom and, in this area, because it's been raining in Florida the nights prior, there was about two inch thick sludge and I'm looking to the left in this one pile and I happened to glance over to my right and, sure enough, like a shining star, I see this used Gillette razor and I knew that was mine. And I quickly moved over to that side of the pile and I was looking around, tossing a few bags here and there, and I happened to see a little pin in between, just above the sludge line and I took off my thick leather gloves and reached into the sludge and I touched the ring and it looped around the top of my finger. And I let out a scream like I just got through an enormous battle.

So, sludge and all, I actually ran to my car, went to my wife's work with this nasty ring and I slipped it back on her finger just like when we first got engaged, believe it or not. It sounds completely ridiculous, but that's the type of excitement and happiness that I had at the time, even though the ring was completely nasty.

MARTIN: And as you mentioned, you and Anna are expecting a baby soon, so if there's a moral to this story, do you think you're going to pass it along to your child? What do you think it might be?

MCGUINN: If there's any more that I could leave, it's - you know, even if life gives you a daunting, giant pile of garbage, there's a ring in there somewhere. You've just got to look for it.

MARTIN: OK. Brian McGuinn is a very relieved husband from Margate, Florida and he was kind enough to join us from there. Thank you so much for joining us and congratulations on both the ring and the baby.

MCGUINN: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Coming up, the Brooklyn-based band, Jarana Beat, plays Mexican music, to be sure, but it may not sound like any Mexican music you've heard before.

SINUHE-PADILLA ISUNZA: We play a lot of different music from Mexico, like Native American music, Afro Mexican music, gypsy Mexican music.

MARTIN: A musical moment with Jarana Beat. That's just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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