From Dito Sevilla. Email him at dito[AT]borderstan.com, follow him on Twitter @DitoDC.
I love waking up on Thanksgiving! It’s one of those three sacred mornings all Washingtonians come to know, love and appreciate. On Thanksgiving, like Christmas Day and the first of January, I have a chance to wake softly, almost naturally — my last hours of sleep unaccompanied by the sounds of the city.
Every day at the stroke of “I’m still asleep,” garbage truck after garbage truck back up in the alley adjacent to my bedroom window, their tailpipes spewing clouds of noxious gases temporarily clouding the ever present aroma of dumpsters fully loaded with food their customers couldn’t seem to eat when it was on their plates.
The trucks, with their engines rumbling and their gears turning emit a high-pitch beeping as they shift into reverse, this is followed by the squeak of badly maintained breaks. Bringing this portion of the cacophony to a close, a train-whistle type air brake finally announces the truck has come to rest. Further adding insult to injury, the brave men who take on the city’s refuse one bin at a time, do not seem to notice that I may be sleeping, nor that my dog has just begun his 9th dream of the night where by all accounts he is either in pursuit of a squirrel, or is making furious love to the golden doodle across the street.
A moment of fake silence is shattered as a trash bin is dragged across what can only be broken glass and brought to the mouth of the truck. This rather solemn time is when I, and my “date” ( if invited to spend the night ) brace ourselves, as the sadistically designed hangman’s noose is attached to the garbage-packed steel bin, then by the loudest means possible yet another motor is fired up, this one powering an antique, roof-mounted winch, itself screaming for oil. As the cable is pulled taught, the contents of the dumpster is tilted, not slowly, not gently, not in any way one would consider elegantly to a fully up-side-down position.
Then just to be sure they’ve gotten it all out, the winch releases the tension, allowing the cable to unwind just enough, and with the sudden yank of a fisherman’s rod with a prize catch on the line, the little motor screeches again – jerking the dumpster up one last time for a quick shake and tug sending it’s cover slamming up and down one more time. Satisfied that they’ve gotten all the basic trash dealt with, the winch unfurls, the steel box drops, and free of it’s load it almost sounds quaint as it’s rolled back into place, unless one of it’s wheels gets stuck and the gentlemen have to shove it. One wheel always gets stuck.
A sudden thumping breaks the symphony. It’s deep, it’s loud, and it’s powerful. The truck begins to move, it’s motor revving up, the thumping continues, harmonizing with the rise and fall of pumping pistons. High above the city, the leader of the free world, sits comfortably conducting his business as the blades on his pair of helicopters chop through the air, filling the city with a sounds so familiar to Washingtonians. Even as the thumping moves further off, the reverberation is felt bouncing off any hard surface in it’s wake, not the least of which seems to be my alley, still beleaguered by the efforts of trash collection.
This being a city of tree hugging, Earth-loving liberals; we recycle. And so, this next page in the concerto, while easily the loudest, most jarring, and cringe inducing is one that I am willing to tolerate without excessive complaint. I am not sure if there is a Sapporo special at Sushi Taro. I am not sure if they give the beer away for the sole purpose of filling 6 trash cans full of the big thick brown glass containers the Japanese lager is bottled in. What I do know is that when the first trashcan is discharged of its contents into the empty steel bin on the trash truck the sound is amazing. It’s like war in high definition.
The sound of 1,000 babies screaming could not hold a candle to the bopping, shattering, exploding burst of audible energy released as Japanese glass strikes American steel. I wonder, are they getting us back for dropping the bomb? Just as my eyelids begin to relax, opening from the protective reflex to preserve my sight from shrapnel, the second bin is hoisted it’s clamor is softer. Each time growing more full, the sound is absorbed until it just clanks and bops.
The trash men, growing tired lift less vigorously. Just as I think I can take no more, right before my ears begin to bleed- the men jump on the truck, and with a hearty slap of the hand let the driver know they’re locked and loaded. They have other trash to collect, more noise to make, more bottles to bop. I check on the doggie. Years have passed since he felt the need to lift his head and wander over to the window to verify the source of the sounds. I look at him now, care free, snoring unfazed, his head filled with the hopes of catching his squirrel and meeting that golden doodle in the park. I start hoping life will be that simple again.