by: Rex Godinez Ortega
NOTHING ruins your mornings faster than the sight of tomato skins, egg shells, sliced lemoncitos, and fish bones scattered all over the garage.
No doubt, the neighbor’s cat has raided again the mini-Smokey Mountain we’ve been growing here at home. That pet dog just can’t seem to do its job.
Wait a minute. Isn’t that her under the car?
“Puppiya! Let go of that diaper!”
This sad state of affairs is the result of that garbage truck no longer entering our neighborhood.
Instead, it just passes once a week through the main road 50 meters away, where it waits on our street corner with the patience of someone suffering from diarrhea.
Thus, as aesthetically unsound as it may seem, we thought it strategic to station our garbage bins near the garage—for easy access to the gate. One just needs to be quick around here since taking out the trash involves chasing after garbage trucks.
Come Tuesdays, the time the garbage truck arrives for its long-awaited visit, the neighborhood erupts in a chaotic scene.
What follows is the sound of rustling slippers, gates banging open, and loud voices echoing the cry of “basura [garbage]” up and down our road.
I swear, it’s as if there was some calamity and that truck sitting out there was hauling relief goods.
I’m taken up by this excitement, too. I
scream at give a little motivational word to the maid to hasten out the gate with our own bags of refuse.
Thankfully, she makes it just in time. It’s always a relief when she does.
I mean, those guys on the garbage truck, they wait for no one. Not even for that neighbor of mine who lives further down the road.
The poor thing.
Those garbage collectors just watched her dragging a week’s worth of garbage towards their direction. And with indifference, take off as the woman reaches the corner.
I cannot begin to describe the look on the woman’s face as she stood there, one huge garbage bag in each hand, staring at the rear end of the garbage truck as it faded into the distance.
The wave of emotions that washed over her face was quite a sight to behold. Disbelief, anger, resentment, frustration, shame, despair, grief. The works.
It became a little scary when the parade of expressions abruptly ended, and was replaced by this calm, icy stare.
If looks could kill, that garbage truck would have already run over a landmine. (Particularly the type designed for tanks.)
Those guys on the garbage truck do stuff like that with impunity. With impunity, mind you. Perhaps it’s because no one is monitoring or supervising them? I don’t know.
Many times they would not even stop to pick up garbage bags placed on the side of the road by people who could see them approaching, and whom they could clearly see were anticipating their arrival.
Maybe the neighbors should have put up a sign that said: NOT ROADSIDE BOMB. [Come on, guys! There really was no need to actually speed up as you pass.]
In the rare occasion that garbage men would allow themselves to be flagged down , they can prove to be picky, too. They refuse to touch certain things like cut branches and leaves, and everything you do not put inside plastic bags or sacks.
Believe it or not, they just leave those things behind as well as a disbelieving you with your mouth wide open.
The only times I recall these garbage dudes actually showing some enthusiasm in collecting garbage is during Christmas. This is the time people prepare gifts to cheer up those guys who are not even given gloves by their employers!
However, getting into that yuletide spirit for their benefit quickly becomes a waste of time as these garbage collectors respond, instead, by displaying a sense of entitlement that owes a lot to the unspoken threat of them taking a long vacation from your area should you not give them their pinaskuhan (Christmas gifts).
And you won’t believe the grumblings you hear when they tell you that it was actually another garbage crew (one assigned to a different area in the city) that showed up in the neighborhood, and whom you played Santa to yesterday.
If you’re wondering what happens when the regular garbage dudes catch another crew collecting this “December garbage” in their territory, well, let’s just say they won’t engage in trash talk only to express their displeasure.
A friend of mine witnessed such a garbage war a couple of Decembers ago in front of the house of his neighbor who happened to be a restaurant owner. The sight of it left him speechless.
Just like how it left that woman neighbor of mine.
The garbage truck was long gone by now, but the woman continued to stand there on the street corner—like a zombie holding black plastic bags with barbecue sticks sticking out the sides and bottom.
She was so numbed by the incident, she didn’t even notice the garbage bags’ putrid juices oozing out of the holes… and now dripping onto her feet.