A strange thing happened last Friday night. I was up later than usual, roughly around 1:30 AM, so I guess it wasn’t technically Friday night but very early Saturday morning. Erica was fast asleep. I was up playing a few games of Call of Duty 4 to tire my eyes; once I was finished I went through the nightly teeth-cleansing ritual, turned off all the lights and electronics and wandered into a dark bedroom. We’ve lived in this apartment for a little over two years now and, in that time, we’ve grown used to the usual sounds, from late night traffic on the street outside to the trains that go by a couple of miles away to the clatter and clang of the restaurant kitchen next door. We’re even used to the weird stuff, like objects moving, things falling, and animals inexplicably appearing.
You might say that we’re settled. So when I went to bed that night, the sound of a garbage truck immediately caught my attention. Our apartment complex has a single dumpster. It’s the kind with brackets on the sides so it can be lifted with a front-side forklift. Now, the restaurant next door has a regular dumpster, which means they require a different type of trash truck. I have no idea whether we have the same waste management service, but I do know that the garbage is picked up usually Wednesday or Thursday morning around 6 AM. Now here it is, 1:30 AM Friday night/Saturday morning, and there’s a garbage truck picking up the restaurant’s trash. Maybe I’m a little paranoid just like Tom Hanks’ character in The ‘Burbs, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got an overactive imagination, but the garbage being picked up that late, on what is basically a weekend, seems a little odd to me. I go over to the window, pull back the curtain and watch.
The restaurant dumpster is about 50 yards away (if that), and the truck is silhouetted against street light affixed to a garage across the street. Two guys (presumably the garbage men) are standing at the dumpster. They seem to be talking. One is holding a bag of garbage. He passes it to the other. One shrugs. They continue talking with lots of hand gestures. Then they reach in and grab another bag. It’s held up, spun around, and stared at for a few minutes, before being set on the ground. This continues for at least twenty minutes. Each bag is scrutinized and deliberated upon. Unfortunately my weariness overpowered my curiosity and I went to bed, but I’ve been thinking about that odd scene for days now. I’m not a garbage man, nor have I ever been, so I don’t know what goes into the waste management arts, but I have seen them pick up garbage from time to time during the last several years, and they’re usually in too much of a hurry to give a damn about what they’re tossing away, much less discuss each and every bag. And then there’s this whole picking-up-the-garbage-during-twilight-hours thing that just gives me all sorts of bad thoughts. It’s my personal fear that, some day soon, I’ll see a local news report about a person who disappeared from my area and hasn’t been seen since last Friday.
Okay, Todd, that’s enough. See? Overactive imagination. Maybe I should become a writer.