Sing it, Harold
February 28, 2011 2:33 AM   Subscribe

Harold is the keeper of local dump. Most days will find Harold with a tie on, helping those who have a problem getting their garbage into the dumpsters, or their recyclables into the bin. He often has a guitar strung across his back.
posted by SuzySmith (17 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
One time when I was a kid, my Dad and I headed over to the local dump. We were going to drop off some garbage, but a day at the dump could also be a great scavenger hunt. You never knew what gems might be found at the dump.

Driving into the dump site, my Dad points to a sign and says "No picnicking? Who would want to picnic at the dump?" We laughed about that.

I found some great stuff that day. Old electronic parts. Pieces of motors and wooden gears.

Before I could collect up my bounty, an employee came up to us and said "didn't you see the sign? It says "NO PICKING"! He told us to leave the dump.

To this day, I still repeat the story of how my father and I were kicked out of the local dump to whoever will listen.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:00 AM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

Hello, sad person with too much time on his hands here. The guitar he carries may well be strung, but if it is on his back it will be there because he has "slung" it on.

I will go away now.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 3:12 AM on February 28, 2011

5 AM, I'll forgive myself, marmaduke_yaverland. I actually went back and forth trying to decide which word to use and liked strung better. :)
posted by SuzySmith at 3:17 AM on February 28, 2011

if it has strings on it, it's strung, And it's on his back. And I can't believe dumps quit letting people recycle cool stuff out of the dump. I always see things there I could use. Guess the people who work there want to keep it all to themselves.
posted by Redhush at 3:36 AM on February 28, 2011

The trick is to "throw" away something that can easily be recycled directly into money. Bring lots of copper wiring to the dump and the dumpster dudes will let you in on the good stuff.
posted by uandt at 3:43 AM on February 28, 2011

That women throwing stuff in the dumpster was not feeling the love.
More people would recyle if ever center had a Harold.

That said, let me tell you about a trip I made to the dump..

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on - two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin' all that room,
seein' as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn't
have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it'd be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.....

I'll tell you the rest later, I don't have time this morning...
posted by tomswift at 4:01 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

damn,,,,,,, ever=every
posted by tomswift at 4:02 AM on February 28, 2011

More about Herald: Area 'Garbologist' Stays In Tune With Customers.
posted by scruss at 4:39 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The people at the dump are always personalities. When I moved a couple years ago, I brought a bunch of things to the recycling/hazmat facility in the town that I was moving from. It was a fun errand.

First I pulled up to the redwood garden shed at the gate that serves as an office. The guy inside was reading a book and didn't really care to enter the March cold and confirm that I actually lived in town, so he just waved me on through the window.

I pulled into the yard, and got out to ask the two guys standing around about what to do with the things I'd brought. The pair were a 300 pound black guy and a recent-sounding Russian or Ukrainian immigrant, and they were speculating over whether the Cindy Crawford issue might be in the bound stack of old Playboys at their feet.

They paused in their conversation and the big guy cheerfully said to me in a broad Boston accent "Whattaya bringin'?" (I have to note for people outside of New England that our well-known regional accent has a pretty narrow expected demographic base and this man did not fit into it.)

"I have some paint, a TV and some antifreeze. Clothes and books, too. I know where to put the TV and the books."

"I need some antifreeze! I will take that!" said the Russian excitedly and he took the bottle right out of the back of my open station wagon and went to the old Ford Explorer I had parked aside.

"Paint goes ovah thaya." The big guy waved in the direction of a metal container across the yard. "Clothes is pretty full. Just put the bags by the containah and someone'll take it."

The Russian guy had popped the hood of the Explorer, and was gleefully pouring the unmixed coolant into the overflow bottle. About 75% of it was making it in, the rest was pouring into the engine compartment and then to the ground.

"You're gettin' that everywhere!" said his friend, looking around nervously.

"That's enough anyway," replied the Russian as he closed the bottle and stuck it in his cab.

So I thanked them and took the old TV into the metal shed where CRTs waited to go to Valhalla. Inside the dark shed was a tall, thin West African man wearing a pretty nice gray suit. "Does the television work?" he asked after I set it atop a bunch of other discarded CRTs.

"It's pretty washed out, but it's fine otherwise." I replied.

"Ahh, good," he said as I walked away.

As I was driving home it occurred to me that the guy reading was the only person I encountered who actually worked there. Everyone else was just hanging out, scoring junk. And they all seemed pretty happy.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:08 AM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

One of my secret life plans is to move back to my small home town and get a job at the transfer station as a dump attendant. It would be hard to tell the good ol'boys that they can't dump motor oil in the dumpster but mostly you would spend all day helping people and sorting for treasure.

I always assumed it was a really high demand job where you had to be related to the county manager to stand a chance but I guess that may not actually be true. Hope for my dream?
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:16 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have hope for your dream.
posted by pwally at 6:18 AM on February 28, 2011

I'd like to tell you about the waste disposal system in the new place I live. This is Gua Musang, right in the middle of peninsular Malaysia and at the extreme south end of the state of Kelantan.

It is still the 1970s here.

Littering is absolutely de rigueur, and I love it! Let's not pretend we aren't fucking the planet, let it all hang out man! When I was back in Canada for a short stint before coming here I would litter furtively, belligerently, but here it's cool. The interior of my car has never been so tidy, whatever you are done with just goes out the window. The sorting system is so easy: cans go out the window, copper and valuable metals go out the window, paper and cardboard go out the window, kitchen waste and compostable materials - out the window. Hazardous waste, solvents, etc should be dumped more carefully with the vehicle at rest, so that you do not damage the car's paint job. When at home, everything goes into the plastic bags that you originally bought all of your shit in, and gets piled near the overflowing dumpster down the block.

I guess at some point this stuff gets collected and trucked away to the dump.

One of the schools I work at is about 50km north on the main road, and the dump is about 35 km along the way so I drive past it once a week. This is just an exceptionally large pile of garbage, pretty similar to the other piles you see, except that it is huge and on fire. I feel sorry for the little farm across the road from it, and I wonder what they grow there and who eats it.

I am most certain that picking at this dump is fine, but I guess that whatever you picked would smell pretty strongly of burning garbage.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:11 AM on February 28, 2011

Our town dump is located at the town highway shed. Years ago there was an empty building that started to be used by the dump folks to store the stuff that was too good for the dumpsters. Eventually, it became the Talbot Center, where you could drop off clothes, books, electronics, household items etc... It became very popular. At some point a few years ago the brain trust of selectmen/selectwomen decided to reclain the building but the town revolted. Take away the trading post and you will be voted out of office. Guess who won?
posted by alfanut at 7:43 AM on February 28, 2011

I've never been to any of the local dumps (though I have seen a few in foreign countries that were as Meatbomb mentions). I'm pretty sure that every last bit of waste we leave out by the curb is lovingly picked through and 100% reused and recycled by beautiful elven people.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on February 28, 2011

Those beautiful, elven people took away a leaking gas oven and a 1984-era microwave from the end of my driveway last month. I thought I would burst soemthgin moving the things there, and only a fresh layer of ice on the driveway got the microwave into place (in two pieces).

Beautiful and elven are the garbage-pickers, sure, but also damn strong.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2011

My parents refused to pay for curbside trash pickup because when they first built their house, it was apparently really expensive to get trash pickup. (Also, there was the issue with lots of loose dogs and the damn crows picking apart any hint of a bag of trash.) So ever since I can remember, we've gone to the dump (read: transfer station/processing facility).

As a child, this was facinating. You would drive up to this place, back in (and if you didn't back into a space, you would get honked and yelled at because you were fucking up the program) and fling your trash (bagged or not) over a barrier that was only about mid-thigh (on an adult) high into a waiting dumpster on a tractor-trailer below. You couldn't see the dumpster, so you always had to kind of guess how hard to throw things in order to make it into the dumpster. The best things to throw were breakables, like florescent light tubes. They made awesome noises, epspecially if you were one of the first people to throw something into a new dumpster.

Of course, that's the nice, car-side version of the dump. Then, there's the truck entrance.

The truck entrance is not just for the actual dump trucks that go around from neighborhood to neighborhood picking up trash, but for any sort of truck (such as my brother's small pickup). You'd have to show photo ID and if you said you had household trash, you would get a green card that would let you go around to the car-side. If you had industrial trash (or they suspected you of lying), you had to go to the Big House.

There were bouncers at the Big House, but that was because if you had too many vehicles in there, it would be even more chaotic than it was. These bouncers wore heavy duty face masks and would communicate with a variety of gestures. Inside, there would be a clear path down the middle with each side being a line of trash with various trucks backed up to the lines of trash emptying their loads. One of the charms of this place was that it was simultaneously dusty and slimy. And there were barely any lights and what lights happened to be working were those horrible yellow sodium lights that give everything a sickly tinge. The place was hosed down nightly, washing the trash line off the edge of the building (which led to the same tractor-trailer dumpsters as the car side) but in the Big House, there was no safety ledge. Of course, there were signs on the walls, warning people that there is a massive drop, but still, the only defense you had was the line of trash.

The floor was slippery and often covered with dangerous materials that it might not be best to wonder what they were in their original form. I would have to hang onto the edge of the truck bed in order to avoid falling over (because ew, I didn't want to fall into the gross, slippery, unknown trash). You'd toss whatever you had out into the line of trash and drive out.

It was quite entertaining if you saw someone who was obviously new to the Big House because they would pull in instead of back in to the line of trash. That would get them a massive HONK from someone sitting in a huge front end loader that just waited in the corner. When the line of trash would start to encroach on the clear middle area, the front end loader would just drive up to the line of trash and push a chunk of it over the edge.

It took me years before I realized that not everyone did this and that people could just put their trash on the curb to be taken away. It was amazing to me. (And now that I have trash pickup, I'm glad to not have to go to the dump, but I've had to make visits here and there for things like dumping a 5 gallon container of used motor oil in the middle of the summertime. Nothing like the stench of hot, old petroleum products to wake you up in the morning.)
posted by sperose at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2011

More about Herald: Area 'Garbologist' Stays In Tune With Customers.
posted by scruss at 7:39 AM on February 28 [1 favorite +] [!]

I had no idea that was how he spelled his name and I've lived here for most of my life.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:33 PM on February 28, 2011

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