Monday, May 14, 2012

To Begin...

I have a Ph.D. I also have  MA and MDiv degrees. I am an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church and I turned 50 this year.

Currently, I drive a garbage truck.

This last bit is either a conversation starter or stopper, depending on who I’m talking to. From the latter category, I generally get sympathetic looks and comments. I don’t write for them. I write for those whose eyes light up.

What is it about garbage trucks? Children are universally attracted. They stare, they wave, and they sparkle if I invite them closer to watch as I tip a can and crush the trash with the powerful hydraulics. Parents—moms especially, in my experience—appear uneasy with this attraction in their children. Grownups don’t delight in garbage trucks the same way kids do. A little boy and his mom crossed in the crosswalk in front of my truck. The boy was all eyes. I waved. He waved and pointed for his mom to see the truck six feet away. Her grip on his other arm tightened and she pulled him along without casting a glance.

Was it merely to get her boy safely across the street that she would not entertain the brief connection? Or, even at an unconscious level, was there an instinctual impulse toward a different kind of protection going on? Who are the people who pick up your trash? What must they be like? We all want our kids to take out the trash. But few, if any, want them eventually to pick up the trash.

It’s dirty business for sure. And those of us who do it get dirty, sometimes in pretty disgusting ways. We touch the trash of a lot of people. Because I don’t drive one of those big rigs with a robo arm that picks up the can, I get out, open the lid, tip the trash and pull it into the back with hydraulic levers. I see a lot back there. The trash tells stories. I know who is remodeling their bathroom and who is on Weight-Watchers. I’ve been squirted by rotting juices. The trash I pick up sometimes sets me to wondering—about the people I serve, but also more philosophically about what our trash says about us as a culture of people, and about human nature itself.

These will be some of my stories.
I am, for the time-being, the Reverend Doctor Garbage Man.


  1. I always wondered why garbage men don't wear those masks, like builders or doctors wear, to protect their noses from the reeking garbage.

    I am interested in your story, Reverend Dr. Garbage Man. God always tells a story with our life, if we're willing to let Him do the writing. Al got his MSW and ended up hating social work. Then he got into IT and had a stroke 10 years later. Now what? God has a story to tell with his life, too.

    Good to see your face, Marbs!

  2. You are my new hero! I often daydream about a complete career shift to subsitstence farming ... or at least master gardening until we can get our boys through college. :-)
    My Boys were the ones who were completely over-the-moon about garbage trucks when they were little - probably spurred on by my own respect for and fascination with those who see so intimately into peoples' lives through their discards. I look forward to following your journey.
    Blessings to you, Andrea and Charlie!

  3. I always stop and let Arthur watch the garbage trucks. I have been know to tail them for blocks at a time so my little man can get his truck fix. I

  4. I confess, I look forward to the garbage truck going by. It guarantees me 2 minutes of not wondering where my sons are: they are glued to the window, watching the big arm pick up the trash cans and dump them into the truck. It's actually kinda fun to watch (yes, even for mom). I never put much more time into it than that. I never think about the people who drive the trucks, probably because I never see them.