Tuesday, August 21


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The first one rattles and roars down North Lime Street at 4:10 in the morning. A side loader, a pair of laughing workers holler over its belching diesel motor. They pull large plastic containers along on their plastic wheels, bumping them down the sidewalks. then pour recyclables by hand into the truck's bin: SPLANG! WHAM! CRAAASH! For eight to twelve minutes they lug one after another of the man-sized containers and then drag and thump them back. Finally yelling they scramble in and the huge motor roars away to another stop a half block down. The process repeats. After some wenty minutes they're finally out of earshot - someone else's problem.

At 5:18 the back-loader arrives. It's yowling pair of attendants drag larger containers down the long echoing alleyway. A device at the rear grabs the lips of the portable plastic bins and upsides them into the maw of the back when an operator pulls a lever. His pull excites the truck's power to slam the bin's top once, twice, three times and more to shake and bang its contents free. It's smacked down onto the street to be pulled and rolled back down the cement, stepped alleyway - BUMP, SLAM, WHAM! And another's pulled out. The process repeated.... Roll... thump... bang...whirrrr... bang... whirr... BANG BANG BANG... whirr WHIRR WHIRRRRRRRR! With each load a compactor's tongue inside the beast's mouth crushes its latest screaming meal. It's a cacophony of manic fury. It takes this team longer than the first. But finally they too roar to the next stop down the street and their work's a repeat.

At 6:05 it's time for the front-loader. This massive rolling engine has a claw on the front that snuggles into the side of a huge metal bin... scraping it up as the truck's revved way way high... its mufflers shaking against the mighty engine's bellow. A metal door atop the container drops away against its side with a slam that makes dogs for blocks bark in terror. The bin's smashed back and forth, slammed against the top of the truck to shake loose its metallic innards. And then the motor whines to drop it back to the sidewalk, its top door whaming shut. This truck seems worked by just one man, who tugs it hard into first gear, missing it at first, with that loud scratch of badly clutched metal on metal. This engine is worked loud, and the third truck in three hours rattles down North Lime to its next commercial pickup a half block away.

Until recently this all was against the law. There was a noise ordinance which specifically banned commercial trash pickups in the city of Lancaster between the hours of seven and seven. Inexplicably, a new city council apparently changed the law so that pickups could begin at five. Of course these start at four. Waste Management has no fear of enforcement. A policeman came along while this was going on last Wednesday morning. I asked him to take action. He explained that this was not his work, but rather I should call the Mayor's office. I have a picture of the policeman talking with the truck operators. I'd post it, but why bother. It's not art... And not his business.

Sometimes the trucks back down the street, or pull forward and backup in place. In reverse an electronic beeper's engaged, loud enough to vibrate the fillings of listeners' teeth. There are many sleepless listeners in the homes along this largely residential street.

See that window on the upper left? That's where my wife and I used to sleep on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Now we lay awake. Helpless in the night. Little wonder good people, many of its most dependable taxpayers, flee Lancaster for the peaceful suburbs, eh? Nor why, after almost a quarter of a century, we're sadly considering moving ourselves. Sigh....


Chad Oneil said...

Very cool shot.

pnfphotography said...

I think that the guys who work so hard doing this job must view it alot like this at times...like a blurr I love the movement......

Who is..... Carteach0? said...

Sometimes the creaky wheels that allow us our lives of luxury are evident, sometimes not. Sometimes they howl at us in mockery.

I am sure the folks riding that rig and making all our nasties go away sometimes take a twisted joy in making loud noises that waken all those 'swells' who don't have to be awake and working at 4am six days a week.

On the other hand, that little slice of joy must be fleeting and they are left with handling noxious garbage in the wee hours, amongst people who hate them for being there and would hate them worse for not being there.

When I see the crew who hauls my trash away I wave and yell thanks. I've schlepped my own to the land fill on occasion, and I'd rather pay them to do it. Last weeks chicken ceasar salad leftovers get pretty rank on way to the tipping spot.