my first introduction to the garbage man was when christian was traveling for work. christian normally handles all trashlike duties so before his trip he double checked with me. i had just quit my job and i’d be home in the mornings.
are you going to remember to put the trash out tuesday?
yes. yes! of course i’ll remember.
and i did remember. i remembered while i was sitting on the couch, still in my pajamas, not wearing a bra, watching a show on the dvr. i remembered because i heard the garbage truck.
christian is very efficient with his garbage chores. monday night, no matter how late, he gathers up all the trash from throughout the house and rolls the can out to the curb.
i hadn’t done any of this. i lept off the couch and frantically grabbed the trash from the kitchen. as the garage door opened i could see the green and yellow of the truck. i dragged the empty trash can to the curb with the very full bag in hand.
and this is how i met the garbage man. crazy haired. pajamaed. bra-less. shoe-less. not prepared.
i first heard his booming laugh, much like a garbage santa, and then a boisterous, howdy!
he told me no worries! as i quickly put the bag in the can for him. he asked if we were liking our house, and about the work i had just quit. then, with a wave and smile he was off. i doubt i was the first disheveled housewife he’d encountered in all his years.
that night when christian called, he asked about the trash. i left out most of the details from my comical encounter that morning.
between then and now i’ve passed him in other neighborhoods, waved to him as i was running, waited for him to back out of our street so i could park, and most recently, sat on the front porch with little whopper to watch the whole trash process.
he is the kind of garbage man who sees eager children down the block and turns his truck into a fantastical creature. metal pincers clanking. the hopper raising up to the sky. the load being compressed and then a honk goodbye.
he is also the kind of man who steps off his truck, takes off his gloves, and talks to you.
so when our city council terminated its contract with waste management in favor of a new company, we were not the only household saddened.
after we got the news i handed him a box of cupcakes and he added it to other plates of goodies filling his cab. the sight of all that love made me so happy.
i still have one more week you know! he said. but i didn’t want to miss you! i told him.
last week his usual time came and went and i thought we had missed garbage man eric. we waited on the porch for a while before watching from an upstairs window. i finally decided to give asher a bath. by the time we were all dressed and ready for the day i heard the rumble of his truck.
eric was behind schedule because, this being his last day on our route after 11 years, he was stopping to say goodbye to every family and every child waiting to wish him well. children handed him cool drinks, folded up notes and hand drawn pictures. and he handed every child a gift in return.
in front of our house he stepped down, took off his gloves and said, let me grab his present.
oh you don’t have to, i protested. he’s so little.
nonsense. i already have his.
and that was that. we waved him off with heavy hearts as he clapped the pincers goodbye.
end of the road, boyz II men