Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Garbage Man

When I was a kid I always wanted to be a garbageman. Some of my friends wanted to be professional athletes, some wanted to be doctors or lawyers, but I wanted to be a garbageman.

When I turned 21, I was attending an elite university and my dreams of pursuing a career in sanitation technology seemed just as out of reach as they were when I was a child.

Shortly after my 21st birthday my friends from Loyola threw a house party. I took an inordinate amount of birthday shots and ended up departing around 4 in the morning in an excessively drunken state. After saying my goodbyes I grabbed a road beer and headed to the street to hail a cab. In the dark of the Baltimore night I was unable to properly see the cars as they approached but after several minutes I saw a car coming my way with a light on its hood. I stepped out into the street, threw my hand up in the air, and realized I had just hailed a cop car.

As I recall it, one of the cops was a reasonable guy while the other was really something of a prick. The "bad cop" started writing up a ticket for an open container which sent me into a rant which included the words "it's not like there's any real crime going on in Baltimore," which set the bad cop off and the good cop was forced to step in to restore order.

After several minutes and some well place humor I had gotten on the good side of the cops to the point where they both laughed when I asked if they could change the "Busch Lite" on the ticket to a Heineken. Unfortunately this did not keep them from issuing the ticket which required me to be in court several weeks later.

The day of my court appearance I waited in the halls of a sterile Baltimore courthouse for upwards of four hours before finally getting my case called. I was then offered to have the ticket removed from my record in exchange for 5 hours of community service. I accepted the "plea" and was issued the 5 hours at the "Department of Public Works - Solid" the following Friday at 7 am.

That Friday, I woke up to my alarm blaring at 6:00 am and felt like the grim specter of death. I had not spent many 6 am's awake in my college career and the few that I had did not include sleep prior to that dreadful hour.

I got showered, got breakfasted and started on a 2 mile walk to the "Department of Public Works - Solid."

When I arrived I was sent into a trailer and forced to sit with the type of people who inhabit Pimlico race track on Tuesday afternoons. If there was a hell, I was not far from it.

After half an hour, a gum chewing woman with hair as big as her body called me into her office and introduced me to a black dude named Allen. I shook hands with Allen, was told I was going to be working with him that day and was tossed a jumpsuit and gloves. Allen and I then walked outside where he told me to put on the gloves and suit and "hop on". Initially, I didn't know what Allen was talking about but after looking up at him I noticed he was talking about the gigantic yellow garbage truck parked across the street.

I felt like the Yankees had just won the World Series while I was drinking a Guinness, smoking a Cohiba and eating lobster. It was miraculous.

I quickly put on my jumpsuit, ran over to the truck and hopped on the back (attempting to hide my glee the entire time because Allen was a full-time garbageman and did not seem to be a fan of his profession). As luck would have it, the first area where we were picking up garbage was Charles Village, a mere 2 minute walk from the Hopkins campus. I was in heaven. Not only was I fulfilling a life long dream but it also occurred to me that someone I know might see me and think that I had become a garbageman (I don't actually know if this happened but the mere thought of it was enough to delight me).

The end of the day was somewhat less exciting as we moved further and further into shady neighborhoods but all in all the day was a wondrous experience and the fulfillment of a life long dream all thanks to an open can of Busch Lite.

Side note: Several years later I was out drinking with coworkers when apparently the jones to dispose other peoples garbage caught me again. As the story goes, I was standing across the street from them when they saw me hop on a garbage truck that then drove around the corner. I have no recollection of the event and woke up in my room the next day without any idea as to how I had gotten there.

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