As a youngster, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I nearly always answered “garbage man.” Not fireman or policeman or some other cool job where you got to blast sirens, wear official-looking uniforms and carry guns, but trash collector or the proper term, as I learned later in elementary school, “sanitary engineer.”
I guess I was enamored by the freedom of hanging off the back of a big truck and hurling bags of someone else’s refuse around until it was time to run the hydraulic press that compacted it all deep into the payload area so even more disgusting crap could be thrown on top.
Back then, we threw everything away—paper, plastic, glass, batteries, paint cans, used motor oil—it didn’t matter. We had no idea where it was going other than away from our clean garage that, until garbage day, smelled like rotting death. My childhood memories include not only hearing my father drag our cans down the driveway in what seemed like the middle of the night, but also hearing the telltale sounds of the garbage truck making its rounds down the street the next morning.
Much like the siren call of the ice cream truck, I would perk up and run from wherever I was to the front of the house to watch in awe as some lucky dude (probably making loads of cash) dumped our old metal cans into the back of a truck before slamming them down on the driveway so hard my dad would surely spend half of his Saturday afternoon banging out the dents with a rubber mallet (also cool to watch).
As I grew up, my infatuation with waste disposal began to wane when I discovered a penchant for writing drivel like this—and the actual income potential of anyone who hangs off the back of a truck. Just as discouraging though, is the fact that trash, at least back in the day, isn’t considered “trash” any more.
Having lunch recently in the deli of Greenlife Grocery, I proceeded to throw my trash away only to find several options of receptacles for disposal. I believe they read (in order) “compost,” “paper,” “plastic,” “glass” and “other.” I think I used all but one of them to discard the remnants of my lunch, which cost twice as much as those restaurants with only one receptacle that simply says “thank you.”
As a pioneer of the Southside, I’ve experienced the trials and tribulations of getting mail and garbage service in a newly inhabited area of town (just four blocks from City Hall). I think we finally moved from a “rural route” to a normally scheduled mail route with one assigned postal worker, but state-of-the-art trash service has just now caught up to us.
When I first moved in nearly six years ago, we were asked to provide our own cans because our route was still considered a rural route. I guess they wanted to see if the neighborhood was gonna gel before giving us expensive cans, like the $75 one I bought initially.
Just recently, however, we were upgraded to the status of “man sits in cab of truck and machine dumps city-issued cans,” so we were all given specific instructions on how to throw things away and drag the can to the curb like we’d already been doing just fine for quite some time. In fact, we even knew how to place our cans away from parked cars and everything, but apparently this didn’t satisfy the boys down at City Hall.
Along with distributing cans, they rendered the entire block in front of my townhome a no parking zone on Fridays from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. In my disgust with the sign, I paced around my kitchen before noticing the beacon of a new dumpster located in the lot behind me. Hmmmmm.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are his own.