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notes from my last day

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.

out with a whimper

In anticipation of the official retirement of Hauling Secrets, over the next few days I’m going to publish a bunch of posts that have been sitting in my Drafts pile for a long time.  Little, trivial things that I never got around to publishing.  Maybe this flurry of activity will get the attention of anyone who still has this blog in their RSS and incite some comments.  If not, it won’t matter, since the last few posts have zero comments anyway.

To put it simply, I’ve gotten busy with other things besides hauling.  Since I’m still trying to keep this blog anonymous, I won’t say what exactly.  But it’s been obvious to readers of this blog that it’s been dead for a while now.  Posts got less and less frequent, and less and less interesting, as I lost the time and the energy to update it.  It didn’t help that all my original collaborating haulers either moved away or got fired.

But I’m going to keep this blog up as an archive of my hauling days. And keep haulingsecrets.com in your RSS, because if I ever get back to full-time hauling, I’ll certainly return here and share my experiences with you, dear readers.  Thank you all for reading and commenting.

As Waste Management offers the town of Old Forge, Pennsylvania $42 million to expand its landfill operations there, Christopher J. Kelly, a columnist for Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Times-Tribune, imagines this commerical:

(Cue ‘America the Beautiful’…)

“What is a landfill? Some say it’s a noxious, nasty morass of trash that should never be situated anywhere near a residential community. Well, we here at Waste Management Inc. have a different view. When we look at a landfill, we see America.

“This is a throwaway culture, and all that garbage has to go somewhere. You and your family can sleep safe at night knowing it’s going to get there on a Waste Management truck.

“For what is a landfill, if not a great melting pot for the multicultural melange of waste cast off every day by Americans of every sex, race, color and creed? Americans like you.

“So let the America-haters bellyache, and we’ll keep piling it high until our putrid mountains’ majesty stretches all across the polluted plain.

“Waste Management — America, one truckload at a time.”

You can read his full story here.

space junk 2

Ever since China destroyed an old weather satellite with an anti-satellite missile in January, there’s been a lot of talk about junk in space. From an article by William J. Broad in the International Herald Tribune:

For decades, space experts have worried that a speeding bit of orbital debris might one day smash a large spacecraft into hundreds of pieces and start a chain reaction, a slow cascade of collisions that would expand for centuries, spreading chaos through the heavens…
Early this year, after a half-century of growth, the federal list of detectable objects (four inches wide or larger) reached 10,000, including dead satellites, spent rocket stages, a camera, a hand tool and junkyards of whirling debris left over from chance explosions and destructive tests…

A solution to the cascade threat exists but is costly. In his Science paper and in recent interviews, Nicholas Johnson of NASA argued that the only sure answer was environmental remediation, including the removal of existing large objects from orbit…

Robots might install rocket engines to send dead spacecraft careering back into the atmosphere, or ground-based lasers might be used to zap debris…

If nothing is done, a kind of orbital crisis might ensue that is known as the Kessler Syndrome…(which) holds that the space around Earth becomes so riddled with junk that launchings are almost impossible. Vehicles that entered space would quickly be destroyed.

Wikipedia weighs in on space debris:

Proposals have been made for ways to “sweep” space debris back into Earth’s atmosphere, including automated tugs, laser brooms to vaporize or nudge particles into rapidly-decaying orbits, or huge aerogel blobs to absorb impacting junk and eventually fall out of orbit with them trapped inside…Other ideas include the gathering of larger objects into an orbital “junk yard”, where they could be used as resources should future needs arise, while keeping them out of the way.

Forget robots, laser brooms, and aerogel blobs – forget all that. What the world needs is a capable hauler to go into orbit and collect all that space junk. If you’re listening, NASA, I just want you to know that I will volunteer my services for this important job, at no cost to the American taxpayer.

Further reading:

As the EU Parliament debates proposals about packaging regulations, this little tidbit gets unearthed:

Mintel reports that for the three month period to November 2006 the word “recyclable” was the leading claim in new food launches, slightly ahead of the “natural” claim.

This is an improvement on its position in the same period in 2005, when ‘recyclable’ only featured on 3.3 per cent of new products compared to 7.7 per cent during the latest measurement period, and ‘natural’ was the leading claim on 10.3 per cent of proudcts.

The word “natural” appeared on 7.1 per cent of new products in the three month period to November.

It feels like one of those ball races they do on the jumbotron at sports arenas, with the lead constantly changing and no one really caring. Who will win next year? “Natural” or “Recyclable”?

(via Food Production Daily)