This morning I got to watch something I haven’t seen in 3 years. Three years ago I was working as a doorman at the same building I am working at now. Then I was a handyman for a while, and now I’m back to being a doorman. Don’t ask; if you know me and have been following this blog, you know; if you don’t it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was a doorman on this shift, the 7am to 3pm shift for seven-plus years, and for those seven-plus years every Wednesday morning I would watch as the can and bottle people would come and rifle through the clear plastic recycle bags and pick out whatever was left from the night before.
See, the really enterprising can and bottle people roam the streets of the city from just after midnight till dawn when most of the building night porters are putting out the garbage. I know this because I started out in this building as a night porter, and in the beginning, my first year there, there was even a regular guy who would show up at 1am every Wednesday and actually help me lug the big bags filled with cans, bottles and assorted other glass, plastic, and metal (not to mention more than a few soiled diapers)
up the stairs to the service entrance in order to have first crack at the bottles and cans. He was a small thin Puerto Rican man in his early 40’s and he called himself Lucky. That was his name, not his milieu. He was like clockwork every Wednesday for three years and one day he didn’t show up, and I never saw him again. There were others, but not as industrious or as engaging as Lucky. I always thought that if these can and bottle people ever put that much energy into a real job, they’d be all right. But who am I to judge?
Today I watched as two women, one African American and one Asian went through the plastic bags methodically emptying one bag into another, picking out the goodies and separating the empty bags, saving them into their shopping carts. The current night man uses a lot of plastic bags unnecessarily, I guess. Or somebody took the bulk of the redeemable cans and bottles at night.
The first super I worked for, an insufferable petty tyrant of a man would spend Tuesday nights in the basement with his wife separating the redeemable plastic and metal and cashing it in himself, until one day the wife had enough of that and they stopped. I wondered why a man who made 60 thousand plus dollars a year and had a free apartment (in 1997) would want the measly twenty or so dollars you might possibly get from our garbage, but hey, it takes all kinds, right?
Back to the diapers, a lot of the nannies in the building had the bad habit of just opening the service entrance door and throwing the soiled diapers into the nearest open receptacle, and that would be either the green paper bin or the blue glass, plastic, and metal bin.
Blue for glass, plastic and metal
Green for paper
If you are a mom and have a nanny, or if you are simply a mom that has babies and lives in a high-rise with a service staff, please tell your nanny (or yourself) not to do this, as the guy picking up the garbage in your building has to fish out these gross dirty diapers under pain of getting a ticket from the city for mixing refuse with recyclables.
A bit about the paper; when I first started the job, in addition to the Luckys of the night there were also the paper guys, guys who would simply rip open the plastic bags full of newspapers to rifle through them, or cut the twine on the stacks of newspapers I had so painstakingly put together and rip off the first pages of every newspaper they could find, leaving me to clean up the mess. I used to fight with these guys, and I wondered what was so valuable about the front page of a newspaper. I found out that newsstand guys gave them a nickel a front-page, which they in turn return to the distributors (take heed, NYT and Daily News) and get a credit for an unsold paper that they don’t deserve. Like I said, it takes all kinds.
Well, I’m glad I don’t have to carry all that garbage up the stairs anymore, and I sure am glad I don’t have to spend my night rifling through garbage bags in order to make a living.