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I have this weird relationship with garbage men. Is that the P.C. job title? Perhaps now it’s sanitation consultants. Or maybe, “those guys who are taking away my trash but hey, wait, did my lame super throw the recycles in there too?” But honestly, that’s really too long for a job title.

So I’ll go ahead and call them garbage men. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with trash. As a child, I was on major litter patrol. It was a one kid mission to beautify America. At age 12, I traveled to Singapore with my mom and just marveled as the clean, polished streets. I think the government there has to resort to whipping and other forms of torture to make this happen, but really, you should see those sidewalks. When you accidentally drop food on the ground there, it’s not a five second rule. It’s like a 3 day rule.

I’ve never really been able to conceptualize where our trash goes. We all produce so much of it, everyday. So I feel enormously grateful that these men come along and pick it all up and take it away to that magical landfill place. But I’ll admit that a garbage man is not the sexiest of professions. It’s hard to ride around in a big, stinky truck all day and be some kind of hot, chick magnet.

Because of this – I try to make an extra effort to look garbage men in the eye and smile when I’m face to face with them. I usually run into them every morning, while waiting at a light with my stroller. But I’m beginning to notice my friendliness is perhaps being misconstrued as something more. I smile at these guys, and sometimes, they grin back a little too broadly. And they seem to do some showing off, as they heave the trash can over their shoulder, with muscles tightening, and dump the contents into the back of the grimy truck.

Is this the creative imagination of a married, 30-something woman with two kids, who is admittedly obsessed with trash collection and clean streets? Possibly. But in the end, there’s really nothing wrong with a little flirtation with your local garbage collector – especially if he has a poochy belly, a mustache and a tight stained t-shirt. That guy is my favorite. And how about the guys who pick up the recycling? Ooh yes. Cardboard and cans. Now that’s sexy.

mama bird notes

Happy Halloween.



14 Responses to you can pick up my trash anytime

  • Jordana Bales says:

    LOOOOVE Summer's costume! Sooooo cute! I remember last year you told me that this would be the last time Ava willingly went into her costume. How very right you were! Doesn't she get costumes=free candy?? Mmmm candy. HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

  • Mark Johnson says:

    I love your posting. I am a NY City sanitation worker (work my route on the upper east side) and will be honest — we meet a lot of nice, attractive and clearly naughty minded women out on the route.

    That said, there are still many that act as if we don't exist, so thanks very much for the smile :). You ever talk with the guys you see as they are manhanding the bags and whatever else into the back of the truck?

    We had a woman yesterday — about mid-30s very pretty blonde — stop to watch as we took picked up her buildings trash which included a couch, tv and dresser along with the bags. You ever stop to watch the truck working before or had the guys press the lever just as you're approaching?

    Hope you write back — think it would be fun to continue the dialogue.


  • Tommy-Tom says:

    A recycled elephant suit. Now that's politically correct.
    I believe the PC term would be "garbage person" though I know of no one who has actually seen a garbage gal.

  • Abby says:

    Mark-my question to you is why do the "sanitation workers" feel the need to park it outside my building at 7 AM on a Saturday when I am getting my beauty sleep? It's so loud!!!! But I do commend you for your hard work at keeping our streets clean. Thanks!

  • Mark Johnson says:

    Abby – It's ok to call us garbage men — in keeping with the writer of the original posts political correctness (was that you?) – I thought I'd call myself a "sanitation worker" rather than garbage man.

    With regard to your question, we try and finish the route early every day, but especially saturday. 7am is a bit early though — when i work saturdays, we often leave the garage around then. As for the noise, I'm sorry because I know the truck can be loud. What sound are you referring to? Does your building put out a lot more garbage and/or furniture than usual on saturday?
    Thanks for the kudos – it's not easy collecting 10-12 tons daily.

  • Abby says:

    I really don't know what's going on, but I feel like the garbage men leave the truck running right underneath my window (which is on the 12th floor) while they clean up all of the garbage on the street. This morning I noticed another truck with a hose wrapped around a tree and that was also a LOUD purring noise so maybe that's it too. Didn't bother me today because I had an early mtg. but that definitely doesn't happen on a Saturday! Maybe my guys are just very early morning people.

  • Mark Johnson says:

    Possibly Abby. The truck you saw today might have been removing freon from an old air conditioner or fridge.

    The purring you hear generally though is probably the truck's compactor. Do you hear relative silence and then the loud hum or purr repeatedly?

  • Abby says:

    It just sounds like the truck is being left on while the guys go around the block picking up the trash bags. It makes so much noise. It does sound like a purr but a LOUD one at that!

  • Mark Johnson says:

    Abby – We do let the truck idle as we're throwing in the bags – the engine has to be on so the truck works.

    Sounds like the LOUD purr you're referring to is the compactor. Have you ever seen the back of the truck working?

  • franny says:

    I just spent Halloween in Sedona Az and it was unlike any other!! All the shops along the center of town have candy for the Trick-or-Treaters. The kids are in costumes, the dogs are in costumes, the moms and dads and grandparents and all the shop keepers and wait staff and even the (Everywhere-else-I'm Too-Cool-For-This) teens, 20 and 30 and 40-somethings! My girlfriend and I did not know to bring costumes on this trip west so we told people we were dressed as Jersey Jews on a road trip, and we were still able to snag some Twix from the generous people of Sedona. One shop keeper was a Jack-in-the-Box with the full Jester costume and kneeling in a box outside her store giving out candy. At Passover we say "Next year in Jerusalem" and now every Halloween I will be thinking "Next year in Sedona".

kelcey kintner