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What Most Garbage Men Dwell on All Day Long

Updated on June 12, 2014

"Wish this sack of trash was a sack of money."


The quest starts early

Much like the Grim Reaper going on his appointed-journey collecting lives, so do the sanitation workers of America, except they collect another death: Our trash, the uneaten food, un-opened bills and a few painfully-written secret love letters never read.

And these unsung, overlooked, and unappreciated manual laborers do their grueling job with an unseen grace that most of us will labor for, but never possess.

I figured if I can take-up for the lowly lab rat, I can certainly lend some support toward the people whose work is always heard at 5 a.m., our good-sleeping time, and seldom seen. If we were to see these “workers in filth,” I’m positive it would be entirely by accident.

I do not like it when I succumb to watering-down, sugar-coating, and using a synonym when the real word might be offensive.

Unnoticed, faceless men and women: The garbage collectors


A never-ending cycle of disease, vermin and worn-out sneakers


Telling it plain

Nasty, stomach-churning, work. No one had to tell me what collecting garbage meant. I know. I knew two garbage men personally, Tom Williams, now retired and Tracy Lee, still active on the back of his germ-laden “limo,” that pulls-out from the City of Hamilton Shop, where all garbage trucks are kept overnight. As if someone were going to steal them.

To me, stealing a garbage truck rivals sticking a lit match into your gas tank to see if the tank is empty, in being stupid, overly-ignorant, and a defused desire to want the better things in life—a job, home, family and a dog named, “Scratch,” who seldom brings you the paper, but keeps neighborhood thugs from stealing your garbage cans.

I’m guilty as sin. That’s pretty guilty. I have not taken the time to talk with Tracy Lee about his job or what his thoughts are of the shape of our world economy, for it would be a waste of time. All that he cares about are doing a good job, corny as it sounds, he believes in doing a good job, taking care of his family and watching an occasional Sprint Cup/NASCAR race on Sunday afternoon.

"One," by Three Dog Night would fit this man


"Welcome to our world."


In the home stretch

I wasn’t physically-able to speak with Tom, so I cannot speak intelligently on what he thought about anything. But most of Hamilton knows Tom, who is happily-retired, but still busy walking the roads picking up spare change that someone dropped in the drive-thru’s in our local fast-food eateries.

Truthfully, Tom does not need that change for he has more money in one of our banks that anyone might figure. I know this for the truth for my brother-in-law, Tim Winsett, saw his bank book once when Tom wanted to withdraw $12,000.00 to buy himself a new Massey-Ferguson tractor. Very seldom have I saw Tim so moved with awe as he was with Tom’s fortune.

Now that you know what’s on Tracy’s mind, and what we can assume that Tom would say he thinks of mostly, I can move forward with an ease and self-assurance that I have given them the homage they deserve.

(Writer’s note: You have my permission to call the City of Hamilton at 205/921-2121, to verify that Tracy Lee still works “on the garbage truck,” as the guys call it. And to verify that Tom “Neighbor” Williams is happily-retired. I do not want to be accused of “just” creating names from thick air. Kenneth).


Early garbage collecting--New York City

Intimate Questions

That I Have Always

Wanted to Ask a

Garbage Man or Woman:

  • What is your favorite brand of deodorant?
  • Do you date much?
  • Do you tell your date if you get one, what you do for a living?
  • Do you take anti-depressants?
  • Do you take-out the trash in your own home?
  • Is your investment portfolio in good shape?
  • When is it proper to jump from a moving garbage truck?
  • Is there room for advancement in your line of work?
  • Don't you hate it when outsiders pry into your work life with awkward questions?

And to really go “out there,” with the rest of this story, I proudly present,

“What Most Garbage Men and Women Dwell on All Day Long”

(these thoughts are not necessarily what Tracy sometimes-thinks and Tom might think).

  1. “Man, my coveralls are getting tight. I need to stop with the double cheeseburgers.”
  2. “What’s wrong with people throwing away a perfectly-good jar of Spanish Olives with one day over the expiration date.”
  3. “Why don’t the city install urine tanks on the back of these trucks?”
  4. “Did Tom Cruise start out collecting garbage? I didn’t mean Nichole Kidman, and Katie Holmes either.”
  5. “If I burst into “New York, New York,” would people think I am gay?”
  6. “I love watching The Rockettes.”
  7. “Sure wish I had paid more attention in grade school.”
  8. “What? A brown rat among this garbage? I will not kill it. He might grow up to be a lab rat someday.”
  9. “Why don’t I think of pretty girls more often?”
  10. “Rumors say that working the garbage truck will make a man impotent.”
  11. “If women today go for the unshaven, filthy look, I’m their guy.”
  12. “I’m not impotent after all.”

And to leave on a serious note, “I sincerely thank you for reading these heart-wrenching pieces. I just pray that you do not refer to my hubs as “trash,” to your coffee-drinking buddies.”

Unsung heroes who keep the cities clean


The garbage men's "Yellow limo."


Some interesting facts about garbage collectors

National Wage Statistics
According to 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage of a garbage man in the United States was $16.55, representing an approximate annual salary of $34,420. Eighty percent of all garbage men reported hourly earnings ranging from $8.92 to $26.69. Half of garbage men earned between $11.45 and $20.52 per hour. The median of all hourly wages reported was $15.52.

Geographical Variances in Pay
BLS statistics show that garbage men in metropolitan areas tended to earn higher wages than those working in nonmetropolitan areas, mostly due to differences in the local cost of living. Garbage men in Peabody, Massachusetts reported the highest hourly earnings of any metropolitan area, at an average of $30.95. The highest hourly wage reported in a nonmetropolitan area, $21.97, was recorded in northeastern Pennsylvania. New York, Illinois and Massachusetts reported some of the highest average wages for this occupation. Outside of these states, the highest average wages were concentrated in the far west and northwest.

" I salute Tracy, Tom, and all people who are making a living, although tough and considered a "grime," as garbage collectors. Salute! "



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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Last Heart,

      I would have loved to meet your uncle.

      He sounds like a "Class Act," of a great guy!

      Thanks for this part of your comment and taking time to read my work.

      Please keep in touch.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, sheilamyers,

      And I agree with you too.

      This job is not beneath me, but even when I was able to work, I always felt that I couldn't hold a job while vomiting most of the time.

      Thank you, dear friend for the comment.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      I agree with you on the couldn't pay me to do their job. I have been within reaching distance of the trucks and I tell you, men or women who collect trash must have an inside made of steel.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Rusti,

      Gee, that is great news--you following me. I appreciate you, friend. And I appreciate your comment on this hub. It is very well expressed.

      And I am extremely-honored to follow you.

      Keep up your hubbing too.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, PegCole17,

      I admire you for taking the valuable time to read my hubs. I felt as if "these" workers get some credit for where I live, I seldom hear anyone talk of how important these city workers are to their lives.

      And please stay in touch and may God bless you.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear sweet Faith Reaper,

      I LOVED your song. Why wouldn't I like it? It was so sincere and sweet. Thank you for sharing the song, your comments, and just being you. I thank you for taking time to leave your comment and read about these garbage workers.

      God smile on you.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thank you so very much for the sweet comment. Putting myself in my adventures is probably the only way I can do these hubs. But Tom and Tracy do exist. And they do a great job.

      And as for the follow, that is my pleasure.

      Are you following me? If you are, thank you. If not, then I ask you to do so.

      You are very appreciated.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I find it so interesting that you created this a Hub by putting yourself in the garbage men's shoes/boots. Lovely, dynamic piece, and a little bit of dry humor is always gratefully accepted! I really admire these guys and their ability to do this job day after day. Thanks for the follow, I have been remiss in my comments, too busy with my website.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      4 years ago from southern USA

      Wonderful tribute to all garbage men and women everywhere. Kenneth. I am reminded about a little song my third grade teacher, Mrs. Jackson, who seemed like back then to me, was 80 years old, taught us. It was such an unusual song and maybe that is why I still remember it to this day and why she would teach us this particular song, I have no clue. It went like this: "My man's a garbage man. He cleans the garbage cans. He smells like garbage too ... whew, I say he do ... some day in future life, I'm going to be his wife. How in the world did you find that out? He asked me to ..." LOL Thanks for bringing back that song memory for me.

      Hope you don't mind that I shared that little song LOL. Of course, you cannot hear the melody, but you may not have cared to anyway : )

      Up and more and away

      Blessings to all the garbage men and women everywhere.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      4 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Interesting topic with an unexpected perspective. It is truly an under appreciated field of endeavor. Kudos to these dedicated folks.

    • Rusti Mccollum profile image

      Ruth McCollum 

      4 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

      Our poor Garbage men have a nasty smelly job. Thank you for giving them the credit they deserve. Thank you for following me i'm now following you enjoying your hubs!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      It's a job someone has to do, but I'm glad it's not me. When it comes to their wages, I don't think even the highest one you mentioned is enough.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Great hub!

      My uncle retired as one of these sanitation workers, and he got good money into his pocket; actually not less than any with a master degree which I know. He never missed a day of work and he was so proud of himself.

      I do wish I can say the same of them here in Puerto Rico...sad to confess that our unproudly garbage collectors need better motivation, dignity, and honor to what they do.

      A place cannot be lived without people that are willing to do this job!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image


      4 years ago from Orange, Texas

      A great tribute, my friend! They are grossly underpaid. You couldn't pay me enough to do their job!


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