Two events (and a billion more, I’m sure) events were critical to my ending up behind the wheel of a garbage truck. The first was a conversation I had with a friend who teaches at the U of MN. I asked for any advice she had as I was coming to the end of writing my dissertation. She said very matter-of-factly, “Get a job. Any job. Bag groceries.” The difficulty people experience in the transition from a period of intense work and focus to no one thing in particular is a big deal. New retirees experience it all the time. My friend had seen friends become unraveled once the book was written and there was nothing more to do with it. I knew she was right and I needed something to do once there was nothing more to do with what had consumed me for two years.
The other event was that I had a dream. I knew when I awoke that it was somehow a big dream. In it, I was driving down a treacherous mountain road in my ’93 Toyota Corolla. Suddenly before me there opened a yawning crevasse that I could not stop in time to avoid. Somehow, I got out of the car before it plummeted over the edge and found myself hanging onto the car with one hand to keep if from crashing to the bottom. An impossible situation to be sure. I had to let go (or die), but I couldn’t.
Suddenly the scene changed. A white garbage truck appeared and slowly rumbled past me down the same stretch of snowy mountain road, only now it was smooth and wide and well plowed. The truck easily rolled down the road that had been impossible for me before.
A couple days later (not dreaming) I was working at replacing the porch on our house. I looked up and a white garbage truck rolled to a stop in front of the house. We had just switched our garbage service to a new local hauler. Wes pulled up in his white truck that day, grabbed our can, and came over to introduce himself. With the dream on my mind and my friend’s words still ringing, I asked if he might need some help. He did not at the moment. But two weeks later I got a call late at night from a very weary sounding Wes. He asked if I was serious about driving… I didn’t even ask what it paid. I started the next day.
Wes started his small garbage business at the age of 40, after a career in sales. A garbage truck was not his dream, but being a small business owner and entrepreneur was. Since I first met him, he responds to “How ya doin?” with an enthusiastic “Livin the dream!”
I guess I am too, though in a different way. Makes me thoughtful about the way dreams got Joseph (the biblical patriarch) into trouble, but also got him through trouble.