How did you handle the hottest day on record? Columnist Nicole Brodeur could tell a lot from her seat in Mike Webster's garbage truck Thursday.
How did you handle the hottest day on record?
A lot of people on Beacon Hill made seafood for dinner. With watermelon for dessert.
That’s how it looked from my seat in Mike Webster’s garbage truck Thursday. I rode shotgun with the Waste Management worker for a while, figuring that riding just an arm’s length from food waste during this history-making heat wave was The Place to Be — and enough to get you whiners out there to shut your gobs.
Can’t sleep? Can’t eat? Can’t find a spot of shade?
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Try opening a 96-gallon container of food and yard waste that’s been sitting out for a week — including Wednesday’s 103-degree scorcher.
That was the outside temperature, anyway. What it reached inside those sun-drenched plastic bins was anyone’s guess. Not that there were any takers.
“Hey, if you wanna smell this crap, … ” Webster said as I climbed into the cab.
I looked around. Between us was “the doghouse,” a console covering the mammoth engine beneath. It got so hot the other day, Webster couldn’t put his leg against it.
He keeps not one, but seven of those tree-shaped air fresheners tucked everywhere. (“Black Ice,” which smells like soap). Thank God, because within 17 minutes of my arrival, the temperature had spiked, the flies were gathering and every bin contained a half-gallon of ooze at the bottom.
I was driving downwind from a salad made in Hell’s Kitchen.
“Didn’t know what you were in for, did ya?” Webster asked with a certain gleam in his eye.
Well, he couldn’t have known, either, when he started doing this eight years ago. (He’s been with Waste Management for two years).
Now he’s a pro. The other day, someone put a beehive into a yard-waste bin. Webster tossed it and got swarmed, but escaped with just one sting on the ear.
He’s unloaded animal parts. Seen nude sunbathers. Twice, he’s driven past a car with a couple in it, “going to town.”
The worst thing he’s seen?
Webster had to blow air out through his mouth before he spoke: “Adult diapers.”
“That’s probably … yeah.”
He then described encounters that, take it from me, you don’t want to hear.
So you understand why, when we found a bin filled with evergreen clippings, it smelled like Christmas in July.
Webster is 36, and lives with his wife and two girls in Pierce County. He likes his job — and it doesn’t hurt that he has a backyard pool for when he’s done with you people and your … what is that?
Looks like that green stuff they use to hold together floral arrangements.
“Bread,” Webster said.
A couple of requests from Webster and his crew:
Have your trash out on time — not when the truck pulls up. (And for heaven’s sake, cover yourself up first).
Don’t put food waste in plastic shopping bags — those go in the garbage. Or if they’re clean, they should be recycled. (One cool idea: Wrap food waste in newspaper, which keeps kitchen and outside containers clean.)
Above all, don’t complain about the heat.
Webster never did. He’s been in this truck through every extreme — this week’s weather, and last winter’s snowstorm.
“The less I fight it,” he said, “the faster it goes.”
Words to live by, people.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She’ll pass on the shrimp, thanks.