Monday, May 28, 2012

Now You're a Garbage Man...

Ever been sprayed with garbage juice?  You don't need or want an image for this one.

A steamy afternoon I pull up in front of a suburban rambler next to a garbage can surrounded by three thick plastic bags on the ground. I tip the can first, then go for one of the bags. Amazed at how heavy it is, I struggle to hoist it into the bay. Then the other two. I hit the lever that operates the hydraulic paddle that crushes and pulls trash into the truck. As I do, one of the bags rips open and out sticks what looks like the lower part of an arm without the skin. I flash on that scene from Goodfellas where the murdered body falls out of a garbage truck. But quickly I realize that the parts I have just hoisted are the remains of a deer.

Having grown up in the country, it has never occurred to me that someone might throw a deer carcass in the trash. You bury it, or leave it out in the woods—but you don’t throw it in with broken toys and Victoria’s Secret catalogs! I called my boss and asked if this was legal. He assured me that it is considered the proper way to dispose of deer carcasses by the city.

Still, I thought about the guts and flesh in the back of my truck that had been fermenting in those black bags in the hot sun. That is why what happened just a couple stops later was so disturbing…

“Solid waste,” as trash is called in the business, is a bit misleading. There is plenty of liquid in trash. You don’t want to think about it, but that’s what gives garbage a lot of its heft. Full diapers, rotting fruit, chicken carcasses, used cooking grease, old paint—you name it. The laws of physics provide that when solid waste is compressed, the liquids seek a way out. Yet I was still new enough on the job not fully to have grasped the principle yet.
Four stops after the putrefied deer stop, I tipped a can and pulled the lever, and—not a squirt, but a steady stream of  warm, liquefied, brownish, greenish something sprayed me from head to foot.

I stood there, hand on the lever. Soaked. And shuddered.

I found on the floor of the cab an oily terry cloth rag that ordinarily would never touch my face, but gladly I wiped myself with it. I pulled out my phone to call my boss. He howled with laughter, and exclaimed, “Now you’re a garbage man!” I was initiated.

Quite a baptism.

p.s. Though you don't want an image, here's one anyway. I took this picture this morning to capture how juicy garbage can be, and, poetically, as I took it, I and the camera caught a little spray.



  1. Let me just say, "eewwwww!"

    I never knew you could discard of dead animals in the city trash - makes me feel better about the bird and mice I've had to ditch.

  2. I've spent part of my afternoon conversing with a retired baker. Let me just say that this offers quite a contrast.

  3. I repent. I will no longer discard of my elephant, rhino, and giraffe carcasses in the garbage.

    Congrats on your "baptism".