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Shake Down: Garbage Men in the Morning

The three gentlemen who take time twice weekly to remove the refuse I place in front of my house insinuated to me the other morning that I neglected to consider how valuable their service is.

Upon descending the front steps and placing a bag on the curb, I noticed the garbage truck pull up. The driver shouted to me: “Is that a house?” I was confused. At 8 a.m., I am going over in my head the details of the first projects of the day. For me, talking to people while I shift into work mode is like being suddenly woken out of REM sleep.

The gentleman in the truck called again. And two jumpsuit-attired fellows strode up beside me, one in front, one to the side. The one in front—in an entirely friendly tone—echoed his driver’s charge:

“Is this a house?”

Of course it is a house; I just exited it, I thought. What about it does not seem residential? So I said: Yes, yes it is.

“Are you sure?”

Yes, definitely. I live there, I said.

“Ohh, you do.”

Yes, I do—being very polite, despite my uncertainty about the inquiry.

“Gosh,” the gentleman said. “We are the guys who remove your trash in the morning.” He said this with humility. It seemed to me he took pride in his work. It is a tough job, sure. But he gets to be outside all day. Georgetown is a lovely neighborhood and pleasing to travel about. All I could say is, Thank you.

“I must ask you, sir.” Again said in friendly tones. “How has our service been over the year?”

This is odd, but I actually felt delighted to be asked for professional feedback. So I contemplated the question for a moment, thinking they deserved a fair assessment.

Quickly I came to the conclusion that no matter what constructive commentary I could offer—such as, perhaps also look out for sidewalk litter, or maybe see if you can fix the leak in the truck that dispenses foul-smelling garbage juices down the street—it was probably best to leave matters alone. They pick up trash. A compliment would be sufficient.

“Quite good. Your service has been excellent. The trash gets taken out.”

“Oh, good,” he said with what seemed to be genuine relief. “We were not sure. We had come to ask you about this at Christmastime, but you were not around.”

No, I wasn’t around, I said—not getting it, but instead thinking back to the Patagonia trip.

“We figured you must have had been traveling.” At this point his tone changed from humble to possessing a good level of confidence. He and his friend stepped closer. 

Then it all added up, just as the words poured from my mouth…each with increasing understanding: Yes, I was. I was in Chile. Far, far away…in Chile. Not hear. Far. Away.

Without missing a beat: “We come twice a week—Tuesdays and Fridays. We’ll be back around here on Friday. You seem like a nice guy. We hope to run into you then.”

I said: About this time?”

“Yep, about this time."

Twenty bucks apiece. And next time I am offering constructive feedback.

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