Let’s Hear It for Garbage Collectors!

A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency declared we Americans generated 254 million pounds of trash in one year.

As a boy, my brother believed he had carried out all 127,000 tons — though practice didn’t make perfect. Ned dumped — accidentally, he still insists — the plastic container into the burn barrel, too. We kids loved watching it melt. Mom? Not so much.

Despite that innovation, taking out garbage wasn’t fun, not during steaming summers or icy winters.

Trash Day still isn’t fun. Especially if a person forgets, awakens, then dashes outside before realizing . . . pants would have been a good idea.

Once dragged to the curb, though, garbage disappears, right?

We want to forget the smelly, disgusting subject. Yet, what if the nearly 120,000 U.S. waste workers didn’t do their job?

Many New York residents still remember the 1968 sanitation department strike, when 100,000 tons of eggshells, Twinkie wrappers and medical wastes piled up while officials clashed with unions in a feud almost as nasty.

Inspired, my brothers tried to strike. Mom, however, proved even less flexible than Mayor Lindsay.

The New York workers proved more successful, obtaining a modest pay increase and bargaining rights. The yucky crisis ended, and urbanites, appreciating garbage haulers as never before, cheered their return.

Trash collectors’ greatest fans, however, are children. Our three-year-old grandson told his folks he wanted to grow up to be a garbage man. According to USA Today, Deacon Ross, a Texas toddler, considered their trashman his best friend. When he and his family had to move, his mother helped Deacon plan a goodbye gift for O Dee. However, I doubt she agreed to Deacon’s insistence they name their new baby after him.

When did I personally learn to appreciate trash collectors? Not until I worked an overnight shift at Denny’s. I grew to welcome garbage guys who drank 4:30 coffee every morning. After my night of placating recovering party people, the quiet, hardworking men, who always left dimes under coffee cups, presented a refreshing change.

I also have visited countries where gunky garbage in the streets is considered the norm and trash cans aren’t.

I’ve sworn off cheap bags that sometimes explode in the unlucky collector’s hands. Hubby, our personal hauler, also appreciates the change. I’ll thank him, maybe bake his favorite pineapple upside-down cake. For our faithful collectors who pick up trash in all kinds of weather, I’ll write a note of thanks or put out a plate of cookies.

Melted plastic trash can notwithstanding, I suppose I could thank my brother for his service all those years. …

Nah. That’s taking garbage gratitude a little too far.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who takes out garbage in your household?

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