Q: What has 4 wheels and flies?
A: A garbage truck.
We have an ultramodern system for collecting garbage here in Davie By the Sea (a/k/a Hollywood). Twice a week a large truck with a sophisticated dumpster-lift system rumbles down the alley. The driver carefully positions the lift device in front of the city-issued dumpster, which yanks the unit into the air, turns it sideways so its contents spill out (mostly) into the truck, then drops it back on the ground. This is repeated at every dumpster down one side of the alley, after which the truck turns around and comes up the alley for the other side’s bins.
Except it works like shit. Every neighbor has a horror story or three about trash all over the alley, busted-up dumpsters that shatter when they drop, and best of all, smashed-up back fences and gates where the clod in the truck lines it up wrong so the lift device beats the crap out of the landscaping, fence, asphalt, power poles, and everything else imaginable.
This week they tossed my dumpster so off-line it ended UP in a cluster of areca palms, cracking the trees, smashing the fence, and leaving a wheel of the dumpster embedded in the gate. They also lost a load of what looks like broken up bathroom tile behind, right in front of my gate. I call the city, and they forward my concern to Zeke (not his real name).
Who’s Zeke, I ask.
“Zeke’s in charge of inspecting damage caused by garbage pick-ups,” I’m told.
That’s his, um, specialty?
“He’ll call you in a day or two. He runs about 2 days behind each call.”
Indeed Zeke calls 2 days later, and comes out to the house to inspect the damage. He agrees that the city needs to replace the fence, gate, and about a dozen dumpsters down the alley. I ask him if inspecting damage is a full-time job.
“Oh, yeah,” he says. “There’s somebody every day. Lotsa somebodies, actually.”
Anybody see anything wrong with this system? It must cost a fortune.
“Everything’s wrong,” he says. “In Hollywood the alleys are too small for the trucks, let alone the 8-foot arm off the lift. They gotta make two trips down each street, doubling fuel consumption. You still need 2 or 3 guys in each truck, so there’s no savings there, either. And nobody likes it except maybe the contractors who come out and work the fence repair.”
Whose idea was this? MicroSoft’s?
He sighs. “Some people say it’s mine,” he says, with a bitter laugh. “Gives me job security. Long as there’s fences and dumpsters getting crushed, I gotta keep runnin’ all over town snappin’ pictures.”
His cell phone rings, so he excuses himself and I hear him handling another resident’s complaint. Soon he’s off, after telling me to expect a crew early next week. Nice guy with an ugly job.
Back in the 19th century slum I grew up in, foul smelling men in filthy uniforms walked down back alleys behind noisy trucks once a week, physically lifting up metal garbage cans, dumping the contents into trucks, tossing the empty can back down, and moving onto the next thousand. It went fast, smooth, and no landscaping or property was injured. Garbage men made money than teachers, and the work was more pleasant.
Nothing like nostalgia for the good old days of garbage collection.