Yesterday afternoon I went out to bring in our garbage bins and was greeted with a scene of utter devastation. Bins were strewn across the width of the cul-de-sac. Most were laying on their sides, lids flapping in the breeze. In the middle of the street sat a pile of unidentifiable mush, oozing some noxious liquid into a nearby drain.
Sadly, this is what passes for garbage collection nowadays.
Remember when garbage men actually collected garbage and took pride in it? I have fond memories of taking the old metal bin out to the nature strip, and of watching the garbos come to collect it.
Around dawn the garbage truck would pass slowly by, with two bronzed, fit looking blokes jogging along behind. In my mind they are Paul Hogan and Alby Mangels, beanie and footy socks their only protection against the early morning chill. These guys could scoop up a bin and dump its contents into the truck with a single, fluid motion only possible with years of practice and muscles like piano wire.
Sure, occasionally a bin lid would be run over or some rubbish dropped on our lawn, but we could forgive the garbage men because they had a human face. They smiled and said “G’day!” as they passed. We were envious of their stress-free lifestyle. Young kids dreamed of being garbologists when they grew up.
These days, the “garbage man” is a faceless representative of whatever waste disposal corporation submitted the lowest priced tender to council. His full title is probably Waste Management Officer Level 6. He sits in the heated cab of his truck, which lumbers through our pre-dawn streets like something out of War of the Worlds. With the press of a button, a whirring robot arm scoops up a bin and dumps its contents, then tosses it aside like an empty beer can. Often this display is accompanied by an irritating beeping noise. In the future the task of garbage collection will be one of the first jobs assigned to androids.
This brings me back to the pile of rubbish left in our street. Is it not the responsibility of the company contracted to manage our waste to pick this up? I certainly don’t want to do it myself, and I can’t blame my neighbours for feeling likewise, so I suppose it will just sit there, making our street look like some third world back alley. In fact, I have been to third world countries that have cleaner streets than ours, precisely because men and women are paid to pick up rubbish and keep the streets tidy, and they take pride in their work and their city.
Has our society reached the point where garbage men no longer pick up garbage?