Let’s be honest: no one grows up dreaming of becoming a trash collector, even though it’s one of the most important jobs of the modern world. Without garbagemen, all of our rubbish would start piling up until the point of no return because we sure as shit can’t be bothered to drive it to the dump ourselves. What if we got some of that leaky garbage water on us? So then, who exactly are the people willing to do the job and keep the planet from resembling a drunken night hookup between Mad Max and WALL-E? I was wondering that myself so I reached out to Steve, who now works as a general sanitation manager, to ask him about his job. This is what he told me:
Some Garbagemen May Actually Help Fight Crime
Although the SWAT Kats managed to become ass-kicking vigilantes with just the stuff they found lying around a junkyard, we rarely think of folks who work with trash as crimefighters. Law enforcement doesn’t agree, though.
“In the beginning these two dudes came to the shop that looked like cops and wanted to talk to who was in charge. I said that’s me what’s up. They explained that a guy they were interested in lived in an apartment building we hauled and asked if I could dump their dumpster and meet them so that they could pull the trash and dig through it and I said whatever I can to help you out.”
“To clarify it was one dude from the FBI and one from Homeland Security. Did that every week for a few months and we’d chit chat when we met up a bit.”
Although “know the garbage, know the man” isn’t technically a saying, it really should be. You can tell a lot about a person by their trash, which is why both stalkers and the police go through them looking for clues as to who they’re really dealing with. Twenty discarded receipts for XL pizza in a week and some pamphlets from a cat shelter will tell you more about a person than a week-long conversation with them.
“So at one of the meet ups they asked if I could meet with them outside of work, and if it could happen at my house when the rest of the fam was gone. I said yeah, I’ll text you. Ended up the guy whose trash I had been giving them was a Nazi and they wanted me to try and befriend him and get them info. I would never agree to be a rat but Nazis are the one thing that would work on me. I was in the ARA, went to marches when I was younger, so it was like the perfect thing. I ended up doing it for a while getting paid for my time, it was weird.”
But it’s not always clues that you might find in a garbage can:
Sometimes, Garbagemen Find People In The Garbage
For people with nothing, a dumpster can be a very enticing thing. It has four falls, a floor, a roof, and hopefully no green fuzz monsters living inside it. In bad weather, it’s not the worst place you can find yourself in. But it is the worst place you can find yourself in when the garbagemen come to collect the garbage. Steve explains:
“One time hauling cardboard I backed into a dumpster at about 5am, when I went to hook up the cable to dump it a naked dude popped out of the dumpster and screamed ‘Stop! Let me get dressed, man!’”
“Well the naked dude was sleeping in a dumpster and it was very hot and muggy so I imagine he took off his clothes to cool off though I’m not sure it was necessary to completely disrobe.”
“He just scared the shit out of me. It was a rearload dumpster and those are the ones we back up to, hook up a cable, and run the controls from the outside. When I was hooking the cable to the back he jumped out of the lids and it was dark and for the first few stops I’m not really awake yet.”
Of course, sometimes the homeless people sleep through the collection and end up almost (or sometimes actually) crushed to death inside the garbage truck. There’re literally hundreds of those kinds of stories from all over the U.S. which is why garbagemen need to be careful so they don’t accidentally Shredder someone in the course of their everyday job.
You Don’t Want To Fuck With Garbagemen
“There was this guy who had a roll off at his house all summer,” Steve recalls. “Little background in case you’re unaware. The way we do roll offs is we deliver this large container to your house or property, you fill it with trash, call us and we go dump it at the landfill and either you’re done and we keep it or if you still need it, we bring it back. We charge a fee for pulling it but when we dump it, we pay the fee at the landfill which is by the ton. So we will send out a bill for our fee and the landfill fee which we’ve already paid so we’re kind of at a deficit on these until we get paid.”
Now, this particular client had 4 dumps but was still full of shit because he was refusing to pay his bill. For three months. The last load ended up sitting in the container for most of the summer, just slowly stewing inside the over-sized crockpot until it was as ripe as Oscar the Grouch’s ballsack at the end of a marathon. Needless to say, Steve’s company did not want to touch it even if the guy paid up, and seeing as they only really needed the container itself, that’s what they decided to take… while leaving the trash behind.
“So I pull up and back up to the container. As I am, the no pay dude comes out and says ‘oh you’re finally going to dump this stinky thing’ to which I reply ‘yup’. Get it onto the truck, set the parking brake and jump out to open the tailgate. When he saw me going to the tailgate and begin to unlatch it he freaked out and pushed me away from it, asking what I was doing, to which I replied taking my dumpster back … While we waited for the police I explained to him I wasn’t doing anything wrong that it was my container and his trash blah blah blah.”
“Eventually the police came and agreed with me and said if he didn’t let me do my thing that they would arrest him for detaining me. It was probably 8 tons of smelly rancid garbage right in the middle of his front lawn. It was glorious.”
The Job Can Be Hazardous To Your Health
“Garbage collector” is actually one of the 10 deadliest jobs in America. According to some statistics, it might actually be more dangerous than being a police officer. There is the heavy machinery you have to operate, the hazardous materials people throw out, and being out in the open all day. Steve knows a lot about that.
“Broke a rib once when a guy I was training backed into me with the truck up against a fence. Got knocked out by a lava lamp that fell from the top of a dumpster and hit me in the head. I’ve stepped on tons of nails at the landfill. Got bit by a dog. Stung by wasps. Slipped on ice. Fell off the top of a garbage truck trying to free a caught cable in freezing rain. Broke a finger getting it jammed between a dumpster and the truck.”
But in the end, though, it’s all worth it for the high pay and respect that all garbagemen enjoy, which… hang on, I’m getting a phone call. Yes? Really? You sure?
Tip your garbage collectors, people. A lot.