sanitation - burlesque

by Marcus Colasurdo

It seems like magic. Think about it: You put out your garbage, all the leavings of your life’s week, you take it and place it out at the curb and you go to sleep. Maybe you dream clean dreams, maybe not, but when morning comes around, viola!, its all gone; all the used up accumulations of 168 hours (give or take) of your existence: the one-too-many browning leaves of lettuce, the empty spaghetti boxes, the egg shells, the banana peels, the burnt toast, the cereal boxes, the freshly-used diapers, the coffee grounds, the tea bags, the candy wrappers, the Q-tips, the Band-Aid strips and the peach pits, the kids’ snot tissues; all the A, B, C’s and X, Y, Z’s of your household…which, yes, recycles, and so a blue plastic bucket sits beside the garbage can. A round cylinder – elongated and stamped – where all the empty wine bottles and bruised beer cans go to, after the party is over. It’s the long-distance transit connect to a re-usable reincarnation and it’ll accept just about anything: totally vacant milk jugs, washed-out jars of pasta sauce (more than vaguely still smelling of garlic and basil), empty tuna cans, cat food cans, dog food cans, cans that once housed corn or green beans or petite peas or chicken noodle soup or pork n’ beans; cans named Comet and Folgers and Pepsi Cola… cans upon cans upon cans… sometimes doing their very own can-can in the middle of a hot, August night…

All that plastic, aluminum, all that glass; the elementals staring at the Johnny-come-latelies known as newspapers, string-tied, vying for curb and container space, whispering half shredded headlines that so very recently were shouting at the top of their inky politician-dubious lungs.

Quiet now: all the flora and fauna of a week’s worth of living, sitting silently at a curb on the street in a town in a country where multiplication occurs by the millisecond and damn near everyone from coast to coast leaves their detritus, drops their dregs and drecks, tumbles that last bottle of party night cerveza into the overflow of good-intentioned, ecologically useful plastic tubs, wipes their hands and heads off to bed. …

Next day… it’s all gone! All the heaps and hives and hills of our discards have disappeared. All gone. As if by magic; a magic (if you stay awake) you can witness for your own self… and maybe give some small thanks or breakfast burrito to the sweat and muscle of the fleet-footed frolicking men who work sanitation… Guys who are, let truth be told, the David Copperfields of our civic streets; who come at dawn and jettison our mounds of junk into the yowling jaws of those churnin’-urn municipal motorpool taxpayer trucks; these guys who laugh at the stench, shake their heads at the odor of our leavings, who pick up, hoist high, sidearm, dump and throw down all our slop in a galaxy of early morning graceful motions.

They bomb-bomb upon green trucks again & again, boom-blooming their fast breaks – up one American street and down another; squeezing their geared growlers into impossible alleys – lifting, pivoting, gliding, pouring, slashing, curve ballin’, roar rollin’ and timing every move with a precision that seems, well, like magic… These unbeatable, raucous crews seem ready to take on anything – 3 on 3 (or more); these sweat-stained, dirty-shirted bunches of men are up, awake and racket – tasking while we, snooze in pre-dawn American reverie; REM phased and pillow kissed while these guys are cracking jokes out in the dark, thinking (maybe) already of quitting time -focused on doing a job so dirty that no one official even wants to call it ‘garbage’ collection anymore — too un-PC or something, I suppose. But, out there on our streets, the job gets done, come hell or stink or high water, week after week and cleanly, you might even say—by these men whose hands and feet are as deft as puns, guffawed into zany can banging lunger laughter, their driver calling the music, soundtracking the work (his truck smelling of brake fluid and metallic screech fume) calling the… music that is essential to the shift as the alarm clock set for 2 am, as those gloves that the union got a deal on, as the ankles taped for those hell high streets, as anything you could think of that makes a day a living and a living a pride.

Strange, but when you think about it, these guys know a hell of a lot more about us than we do about them… They see what we use to live our lives. And when you walk outside, coffee in hand on your way to into the day, it truly is to encounter the results, of, well, magic. Hmm.

Seems like the good Doctor King say something like that… only in different words… Hmm.

I guess that sometimes, there really is a rabbit in that old, beat-up Baltimore Ravens hat you threw away last night… Good morning, America. Welcome to the magic…


Marcus Colasurdo is the author of 11 books. Over the years, he has worked as varied as Los Angeles taxi-cab driver to Job Corps counselor. He is the founder of the Soul Kitchen, a community meals and clothing program (in Baltimore, MD and Hazleton, PA) that currently feeds 400 folks monthly and provides various other much-needed items to needy folks in those communities.

Also by Marcus Colasurdo
Letter of Transit


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One comment

  1. Lovely homage


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