I just love that some hauler took the time to make that hand print. It’s like those ornate airbrushings that long-haul drivers put on their rigs, only crude, like an ancient cave painting, hauler style. I wonder what they were doing that their hands got that dirty. And I wonder how long it will stay on there.
Today was my last day hauling junk. I’m moving to a new home far away from Anytown.
I said my goodbyes all day. To Fritata, the Weighmaster. To Luigi, the loader driver at the MRF. To Shirley, the Recycle Station booth attendant. I found myself closing each awkward interaction with these people I only know through my job by complimenting them each on their own job. Fritata might not take any pleasure in being told “You’ve been a good Weigh Master” by someone other than her boss, but that’s what she was to me. And even if she did her job poorly, like Carol sometimes, fumbling around with the cash machine, at least she fulfilled her role in my little world. She did a good job at doing a bad job. And that’s as necessary as anything else.
So I was already getting all nostalgic when I arrived at the last job of the day. I had to do this one all by myself, because Bossman, my partner that day, had some marketing function to attend. At the jobsite, a house in the suburbs, there was a little girl running around while her mother showed me the junk she wanted removed. When we got to the stairs leading up to the bedrooms, she asked her daughter to show me what was upstairs. “That’ll be your job,” she said. The girl said “Okay!” and bounded upstairs. I caught up to her at the top of the stairs, in the doorway of a bedroom that was empty except for a small dresser. The girl explained, in the kind of monotone, short-of-breath run-on that kids sometimes have when repeating things adults have told them, that “This was my room but now since the new baby’s coming I’m moving to a new room and this is gonna be the new baby’s room.” I couldn’t tell how she felt about it – if she felt uprooted, or jealous, as we’re told kids can be of new siblings – so I replied with fake excitement, “Ooh, a brand new room for you.” The girl said “Yep” pretty matter-of-factly and pointed to the dresser. “That’s it,” she said. I nodded and she raced back downstairs.
The rest of the junk was a pile of boxes in the basement. When I went downstairs, the girl was down there sitting atop a plastic play castle. Her mother called from upstairs, “Honey, you need to stay out of the man’s way. That’ll be your new job.” The girl said “okay”. But down there in the basement, it was as if the little girl was using every bit of her boundless energy to keep from intervening in what I was doing. So on my second trip down there, I asked myself out loud, “Hmm, which box should I take next?” She pointed from her castle: “That one!” I obeyed. Then she ran up the stairs ahead of me to hold the door to the garage open for me. Though the door would have stayed open by itself – as it had on my first trip – I said “thanks” as I passed through. She said “You’re welcome!” and when I returned from loading the box onto my truck, I could see her rushing to get back downstairs.
When I got there, she was atop her castle again, with her head cocked sideways and her tongue sticking out and her eyes rolled back, as if hanging from an invisible noose. When she saw that I’d noticed, she broke the face. I said, “What’s that, a scary face?” She explained, “Me and my best friend do that sometimes, make silly faces.” I nodded, and asked her which box I should take next. The one she suggested had some heavy things leaning up against it, so I said “maybe I should take those things first, so then I can get at the box next time.” She agreed, and just as I was leaning down to pick them up, the girl’s mother, who must have heard us talking, called from upstairs: “Honey, are you staying out of the man’s way?” “Yes!” the girl cried back. At the top of the stairs, I confirmed that her daughter wasn’t bothering me.
The girl held the door for me again and raced ahead of me again, and we went on this way for ten minutes or so, until I had exposed some inner parts of the pile the girl hadn’t seen before. She began creeping closer and closer to the pile, until I had to remind her to stay out of my way. On my next trip out the garage door, instead of holding the door for me, which she’d been so diligently doing every other trip, the girl appeared at the door on my way back from the truck, with a curtain rod in her hand. “And you don’t have to go downstairs again,” she said, “because I brought this.” She had picked it up when I wasn’t looking. I fumbled around in my head for some quick logic. “Now, now,” I said. “That’s my job. My job is to take the junk away. You do your job and I’ll do mine, okay?” She nodded, and from that point on stuck to holding the door and running ahead of me.
And now, taking the junk away is not my job anymore.
I’m moving to a new and unfamiliar place. After seven years of hauling, I’m hanging up my dirty boots and gloves. I like to think maybe I tried a little too hard sometimes, made some mistakes, but didn’t cause any major disasters, in the end doing a good job, like the little girl. Or at least maybe I did a good job at doing a bad job, and occupied that place in someone’s world.
And like the little girl, I hope I like my new room.