The entire warehouse was a mess. A giant heap of trash occupied the centre of the floor, and another sloped up into a corner. It looked like my desk at work.
“Why don’t you throw some of this junk out?” I asked.
“It’s already been thrown out,” said Heather “Calgon” Harrison, recycling supervisor for the county landfill.
Harrison was giving me a tour of the operation. Recycle bags were torn open and emptied onto a conveyor belt. The belt ran up to a second floor workstation where a line of people separated the material and dropped it into storage bins. Once enough material was accumulated, it was crushed into bales for transportation.
I felt like a super hero. I had Kevlar gloves and an orange jumpsuit, a hard hat and safety glasses. Harrison parked me on the line in the paper section.
“I am The Recycler,” I said to my two coworkers, using an awesome robot voice. Then I used my superhuman speed to snatch pieces of paper from the detritus flowing by on the belt.
I’m not gonna to lie to you: It was tough.
Now I’m gonna lie to you: But I was a natural. I was there 10 minutes and I was carrying my crew.
“Now The Recycler will read to you,” I announced, and proceeded to read aloud a scintillating article about a charity fundraiser found in the pages of a discarded copy of the Amherst Daily News.
It was a brilliant story written by the man I was before I was transformed into a superhero by a radioactive PET bottle from outer space. And as I read, I continued to sort with my free hand. Only now I was pulling plastic, cardboard and deposit bottles, in addition to paper. The conveyor belt was empty after it rolled by my station.
I was about to announce I’d single-handedly worked everyone out of a job when the motherlode of forbidden items came sloshing and skittering down the path: a transparent bag filled with red liquid, a voodoo doll stuck full with a dozen or more syringes, a box of .44 Magnum rounds, and an especially ugly human head.
The Recyler retired on the spot.
“Calgon, take me away!” I shouted.
Harrison gave me a transfer on the spot. Even a pro like her needed to go get some of the comparatively fresh landfill air outside. Any single one of those items would have been just another day at the office, but to see them altogether clearly rattled her cage.
I asked her the oddest thing she’d ever seen on the job.
“Probably I’d have to say dead ducks,” she said. Rats on the conveyor belt are occasional visitors, too, although pachyderms are infrequent.
I patted her shoulder in a gesture of comfort.
“You don’t know what those ducks did. Maybe they got what they deserved,” I said.
That seemed to cheer her up. She smiled wistfully. Then she spoke eloquently about the importance of recycling, and how we can’t just bury everything. It was the sort of speech The Recycler would have loved. My eyes misted over at the memory of that indomitable trash talking trash fighter. I was so awesome back then five minutes ago.
“You can’t make any more land,” she concluded.
I nodded, even though what she’d said wasn’t true. Dubai can make more land, Heather, Dubai can.
Eric Sparling is At Work with area employers every week. Some of what appears here is true. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org