SULTAN — Kevin Klein found himself waist-deep in a dumpster last Friday, frantically shuffling through cardboard boxes to find the wedding ring that had just slipped off his finger.
He didn’t say anything to his wife, who accompanied him to the Sultan Drop Box to recycle the last of their moving boxes.
They recently bought their rental house north of Monroe, putting down roots in Snohomish County after the pandemic foiled their plans to travel the world for a year with their daughters, both 7.
Klein left his job of 10 years at Amazon and his wife, Stacey, quit her job as a pilot in preparation for their 2020 travels, a globetrotting adventure dubbed Project Ohana. Nine weeks and four countries later, COVID-19 landed them back in the United States. The Kleins found property in Snohomish County and turned their Project Ohana inward to focus on healthy living and shedding some weight.
Klein lost about 50 pounds by December, but he hadn’t gotten his wedding ring re-sized. That’s when it slipped off his finger into two tons of cardboard, paper and stray garbage.
Klein let an employee know about his lost ring, but he didn’t hold out much hope.
“I thought for sure there was no way we were going to find it,” he said. “I’m thinking: How am I going to tell my wife I lost my wedding ring right before Christmas?”
Klein got his simple, white gold wedding band when he married Stacey in 2012.
“It’s got this patina on it that’s just perfect on me,” he said. “I was sad to have to replace it.”
The drop box shut down the bedroom-sized bin holding the ring for the rest of the day. Chances were the ring was long gone in a truck headed west. Solid Waste Operations Supervisor Casey Jones told Klein to meet him at the Cathcart Way Operations Center in Snohomish the next morning to comb through the bin’s contents.
Klein brought a metal detector, but the metal-lined floors rendered it useless to find the ring.
Solid waste truck drivers Jamie Dearn and Rocky Ogden spread the recycling out in a 30-foot-long, 2-foot-high pile on the ground.
After 45 minutes of sifting, Dearn told Klein he didn’t think they’d find the ring.
That’s when he pulled the band out of his pocket — he’d found it moments before, beneath a piece of cardboard.
His reward was Klein’s relief.
“He was so appreciative,” Jones said.
Klein’s gratitude cheered up solid waste employees juggling a pandemic-induced uptick in customers and tonnage while upholding strict COVID-19 protocol.
“It’s wearing on them,” Jones said.
About once or twice a year, customers lose something important at a waste facility and realize in time to look, he said. In his 20 years with solid waste, they’ve only found the missing item one other time.
“It was a total of three hours of our time,” Jones said. “To get a wedding ring, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @sanders_julia.