03/12/2006: "To The Dump for a Laugh"
Going to the dump these days has become an entertaining adventure for me. I am a frequent self-haul customer on San Juan Island. The comical things I see at the dump make me wonder why they do things the way they do. Can it be for our amusement or is there some other reason for the high jinks?
I passed through the gates and up the hill. Halfway up there is a guy in a fluorescent suit sitting in an old executive office chair reading a recycled magazine. This is a relatively new practice and I'm not sure why he gets paid to sit in an easy chair. But it is very amusing.
Surprised by my sudden presence he looks up from his reading. His face says, what can this clown possibly want? Then he asks me "Garbage?"
I replied, "No thanks I've already got a truck full. Know where a guy can get rid of the stuff?"
He looks at me like I am the fly who just landed in his ice cream sundae. I think he must have no sense of humor whatsoever. "Yeah, garbage", I say.
"Wait here", he says.
So I turn up the music in my truck, Johnny Cash. I can't see anyone else up ahead of me but I can tell by his vibes that this guy does not want me looking over his shoulder as he reads his magazine. He wants me out of his face. I have spoiled his private moment. But despite my friendly persona and the extra bonus he is getting as "Sea of Heartbreak" comes blasting out of my truck window, he points and says, "Go on up".
Since I am an experienced ferry rider I know how to put my truck in line behind other vehicles. But we're at the dump now and we must pretend (for some strange reason) that we can't figure out how to line-up without the help of mister easy chair.
I take my turn on the scale. The guy in the little booth is dressed up like Poncho Villa with crisscrossed ammo belts across his chest and a big "Chicklet" tooth smile. Isn't it amazing what people will throw away? And aren't we lucky that our team at the dump keeps a sharp eye out for hazards like belts of 50 caliber bullets? We wouldn't want kids to get a hold of those now would we?
He says, "On the Pile!" Like I might just dump it out right here.
Now this is the funny part. You don't really get to toss your trash on the actual pile. If you go over to the recycling area you get to pitch your stuff straight into the dumpster and on the obvious pile.
Not so with garbage. No. You must toss everything out on the ground just short of "the pile". You get to make kind of a mini-pile. If they would let you back up to the dumpster you could toss it right "on the pile". But no. The guy with the backhoe gets the honor of pushing it "on the pile". But first he gets to split open the bags, pick through the boxes, kick the stuff around, and pick up and pocket any treasure he finds for himself and his buddies (Hey will you look at these ammo belts someone tossed out!).
When backhoe is satisfied that there is only junk left and the line to the dump is sufficiently long, the radio chirps and everything stops. Then in an orchestrated movement, easy chair drops his magazine and with a wave of his hand halts all traffic. Poncho holds out his lefty in the universal stop signal, and everyone in line waits and watches while the backhoe fires-up and pushes the crap "on the pile". Like we aren't smart enough to toss it "on the pile" ourselves.
They tell me things are done in this funny way for our safety. Then the guy next to me pulls a big glass window out of his truck that shatters on the concrete causing shards to fly up and land all over the place. I wonder why he couldn't just back up a few more feet and put it on the actual pile? Wouldn't that be safer? Now there is glass everywhere and the backhoe can't scrape it up. How safe is that?
I don't blame the dedicated workers at the facility for clowning around. They are just following procedure. But the funny way this dump is managed is not all about safety.
I really think there is another reason for the high jinks at the dump. I think there is a concerted effort by Public Works management to run the dump inefficiently so that they can justify the cost of building a new one. Their reason will be that the old one is unsafe and inefficient. So is this bunch of clowns trying to put one over on us? Like we can't see it for ourselves.