Commentary

Seattle’s luckiest drunk and a career choice

I probably shouldn’t read the “odd news” websites because I never quite make the connections I think the news story writers want me to make.

Like on Friday when a Seattle television station reported a man had survived being compacted twice in one of those giant trash squashers they have in the back of garbage trucks.

Here’s the story. It’s one of those you couldn’t make up

Apparently a visitor to one of Seattle’s finer late night establishments staggered out into the night about 1 a.m. and realized he was in no shape to drive home.

So he bedded down for the rest of the night in a nearby dumpster. (I know, that wouldn’t be my first choice for a good night’s sleep, either. Since the story references his choice not to drive, I assume he had a car. What would be wrong with snoozing there I don’t know.)

He apparently didn’t know, or wasn’t able to think straight, that in most big cities trash collection goes on all night.

You guessed it, about 2:30 here comes a garbage truck, tips up the dumpster, and into its big bed go egg shells, half-eaten cartons of Chinese food, worn out shoes, two- day- old Seattle Times (from a non-recycler), coffee grounds from Frasier and Niles and one very drunk, very sleepy bar patron.

The garbage truck driver continued on his merry way but didn’t get out of his truck until several stops away, apparently at a Seattle area mall.

By this time he had run the trash compactor not once, but twice.

When he hopped out at the mall, he looked over into the bed of his truck and saw an arm sticking out.

Probably expecting to find body parts of various kinds scattered around the truck, he dug into the trash and freed his inadvertent passenger.

Who, apparently was virtually uninjured!

In fact, the story I read said the truck driver had to restrain him from trying to walk home. He didn’t even want to wait for EMS to arrive to check him over.

Astoundingly, he was okay. But, apparently the garbage truck driver was so shaken up he was unable to continue his route.

I suppose the way we are supposed to look at the story is “what an idiot” or, more precisely, “what a lucky idiot!”

Maybe we’re supposed to wonder how anyone could be basically squashed flat two times and survive.

And I’m sure that’s true, except all I did was feel sorry for the garbage truck driver.

I’ll bet it wasn’t funny to him, standing there in a mall parking lot, staring at an arm sticking out of a compacted cube of banana peels, knowing he was going to have to go in there and find...well, I’d imagine he was fearing just exactly what I would find.

You see, I go way back with garbage men.

My parents always told me when I was about five or six I wanted to be one.

For once, I’m absolutely serious.

Apparently, people would come up to me and ask what I was going to be when I’d grow up, expecting I’d say a fireman or a baseball player and I’d say a “garbage man.”

They’d laugh and say “okay what do you really want to be?” and I’d say “a garbage man.”

I just liked the idea of riding around on a truck all day, jumping off and on, doing something necessary and important and helping people.

It didn’t, and doesn’t, seem to be an unattractive way to make a living at all. And here, a half-century later, I still don’t see anything wrong with it.

The smell? Hey, I raised two boys. And I had to go in their rooms!

Just imagine a world without garbage collection if you want to know how important it is.

Of course now it’s called “solid waste” but that takes all the glamour out of it, so far as I’m concerned.

I still like garbage men. Last year I followed a couple around Rockdale for a story about our city’s changing from one service to another.

I was impressed at their skill and professionalism. Look, I’m not kidding. They even had to deal with a swarm of bees while I was with them. They did a great job of alerting the home owner to a possible dangerous situation.

Not long afterwards, we all got our new big green containers.

All right, admit it, you’re proud of yours, just like I am. It makes setting out the trash more fun than it used to be.

Okay, so I didn’t grow up to work with garbage. I grew up to be a newspaper editor and now I write columns like, uh, this, uh.....

Wait a minute!

mike@rockdalereporter.com


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2012-08-23 digital edition



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