So, I am all for automation, so long as it doesn’t mean robots take over the earth, or anything like that. I remember when we lived in South Carolina, that around the back of our house, we had a wood pallet sitting next to what was probably best called our shed. The shed was actually a little room on the house itself, where Dad would store any and every tool known to humans, since we didn’t have a garage. We also found it very interesting that around Christmas time most years, the shed, for some strange reason, ended up being locked, with no explanation. Hmmmmm….
But, back to the wooden pallet. The reason it was so fascinating to us was that when we were able to lift the pallet up, there in the cool dark shade where no grass grew, we would find our outdoor pets – the toads. There were probably four or five who lived there, including one we affectionately called The Blimp. Honestly, it was the biggest and fattest toad I think I have even seen in my life. There must have been plenty of bugs living under the pallet at the same time, so it was a little Las Vegas buffet daily. Actually, when I first saw the Star Wars episode with Jabba the Hut – I fondly remembered The Blimp. We of course would never leave them alone, but played with them and made them hop and such, and then put them back under the pallet and close it down over them again. I’m sure they enjoyed being disturbed on a regular basis as much as we enjoyed playing with them. Now, by “we,” I have to exclude my sister Robin, who to this day has a screaming fear of a wide variety of hopping amphibians, toads being at the top of the list. We used to tease her, of course, until we came to realize she would have near panic attacks to see one hop in front of her, or be held up to her face. Ahh, brotherly love.
But again, I digress. You see, to get to the toads, as I mentioned, you had to lift the pallet up. That wasn’t such a problem, with them being only wood. The problem was why the pallet was there in the first place. You see, it served as the base to hold the two outdoor trash cans that were filled to the brim each week by the Cross family of nine. When I say trash can, I don’t mean the lightweight Tupperware like “can” that we today use to store old basketballs and Jart sets of old. Nor were they even medium sized aluminum cans that would have long ago been dented and beat up.
No – these were your classic, full steel, heavyweight, probably 50 gallon monsters that could serve as bulletproof, shrapnel proof, nuclear bomb resistant shelters if needed. Did I mention they were heavy? They were monsters! Now, granted, we were just kids, but when the cans were empty, it still took two of us to inch and roll the can off the palette, usually first taking of the heavy lids to lighten it up a bit. We had to roll off two to get to our hopping friends, and then try to half-lift, half roll them back on when we were done.
And they smelled horrible. Imagine putting all the food waste along with all sorts of other stuff into a steel can and setting it outside on a nice hot South Carolina summer’s day… hot, heavy and stinky. A wonderful combo.
Now, I tell you all that because of what comes next. I never paid much attention, but the only way those steel trash cans got from our back yard down the driveway to the front curb, to be lifted up and emptied into the garbage truck was that some very strong “sanitation workers,” what was known in our time as garbage collectors, had to lift and carry those beasts all that way, and then dump them by hand into the back of the truck, and then carry the can back up the hill to the back of the house and put it back in place, and then do the same with the second can. And this didn’t happen during the time when the owners moved the cans down to the street or anything like that. It was sheer manual labor, and tough labor at that.
So, fast forward to present day. Our garbage collection day is Thursday, so early in the morning, we make sure to have everything in the house collected. We then dump it all into our one 64 gallon, plastic bin with wheels on it, rented from the city, and roll it out of the garage down the driveway and set it positioned right on the edge of the curb. Around 7:30am, the truck comes grinding by, with squeaking brakes and all that makes a garbage truck a garbage truck. Except, this state of the art baby stops beside the can, and the operator pushes a button or pulls a lever, and a set of claws emerges from the side of the truck, reaches out and grabs the can, and then lifts it up about 15 feet into the air, and then swings it into the trash area in the back of the truck, shakes it, and dumps the can empty, and then just as quickly, swings the can back down and sets it on the end of the curb. I’ll bet in their wildest dreams, our South Carolina guys could never have imagined such an automated wonder…
I kind of like to watch when they dump our trash – it’s like stopping to see a bulldozer break down the wall of a condemned building. It’s pretty cool. Except what happened a few weeks ago. WE must have had a fairly heavy load of stuff that week, because – and I had to laugh – when the claw lifted the trash can up to dump it, the can slipped out of the clutches, and fell completely into the trash itself. I was mesmerized to see what would happen next.
Well, what happened was, the operator had to climb out of his comfy warm cab, and climb up the side of the truck, and then jump into the trash itself to retrieve the trash can. I don’t think he was very happy about this part of the job, because when he finally got the can dumped, I watched it fly over the side of the truck as he not-so-gently flung it down to the curb. It bounced a little, and then ended up on its side. He left it there, and drove off.
So, now I am in email conversation with the city. You see, when you are a big piece of plastic, and it’s 15 degrees outside, and you get chucked over the side of a 15 foot truck and land on the concrete, you don’t fare well. Our faithful can now is cracked on the side of the body, and the lid hangs on by only one hinge. I don’t think they are meant to be handled that way. Now I’m sure someone will swing by sometime and replace our can with a nice shiny new black one, and all will be well. Until the next time.
I guess there are times for all of us when we are just moseying along, doing our normal job, and the next thing we know, we have to climb into a bunch of garbage to retrieve a lost can. It’s not an adventure when we have to do that – it’s a pain, and brings probably real frustration, and the desire to toss something. It’s a pity when something breaks as a result. It’s a tragedy when people are treated that way, with much more dire results. No matter what happens in our lives, I would hope and pray that our intention would always be to save and not to destroy, to remedy, and not break, and to care just a little bit more than minimum, and find the best way through.
It was kind of funny, though…
Word for the day: lagniappe. Pronounced LANNY-yap, at least by the folks in New Orleans. This is a Creole-usage word, that came from early Spanish la napa, which means “the gift.” A lagniappe is a little something extra thrown in, or a premium or little gift given by a store owner to encourage folks to come shop again. There are tons and tons of antique knickknacks that exist today because sellers gave them away to customers. When we would visit Cheri’s folks on the farm around the holidays, I couldn’t believe the tons of stuff implement dealers and seed sellers would hand out, like jackets and knives and a thousand different calendars. I remember how we often picked the kind of cereal we would buy as a kid, based on what was inside! Lagniappe – not a bad thing to remember when we have the ability to go a bit beyond the minimum for someone else…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.