An Observation From the Truck

When I was sixteen, I landed my first job with the Department of Public Works.  In layman terms, I was a Garbage Man. For three summers I would sling trash in the summer streets and, honestly, it wasn’t horrible.  There are some things about the life people don’t recognize and there is one I don’t think too many people know about.

In my town, there are three zones defined by town borders and busy streets.  Early in the week the DPW would do recycling runs; A zone each day.  I didn’t have my driver’s license yet so they stuck me and another kid to do the runs since it took all day.  It was monotonous but pretty easy work.  After a while, recycling would teach you lessons about social stratification.  The wealthier neighborhoods had a tendency to have more brand name items in it while poorer neighborhoods had off brand.  When we started picking up cardboard with recycling in 2011, the wealthier neighborhoods had more boxes to throw away because (I assume) they bought more.

Recycling also made me an armchair psychoanalyst.  I can vividly recall this one house in the western side of town.  This lady’s (sexist) recycling always had cans of cat food in it.  Every single week, fresh flies would feast and breed on the leftover food her cats wouldn’t eat.  And every week I would get a whiff of the foulest smelling recycling in town.  It was, admittedly, amusing.  Recently, it was theorized she may feed stray cats.

Some houses were not always amusing. Every week there were houses whose recycling only contained beer bottles and cans.  Whatever they didn’t finish would drip to the bottom of the bin and leave that unmistakable rotten, skunky scent.  I’m sure some of those houses were party houses and we only saw the remnants.  Unfortunately, not all of them could be.  I never got a look at the people I took recycling from so I couldn’t confirm if the house was full of college kids or children.

I will admit it’s difficult to make any analysis without seeing the people you are analyzing.  That being said, I believe you can read people by what they throw away.

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