By David Jackson

Those that say the life of a working person is easy hasn’t walked in that person’s shoes. To go to school beyond grade 12 is expensive and if you want a place of your own it is even tougher. Throw in a few kids and you have got the perfect family. All you can think about is money. How many hours does it take to have a good life and what wage do I need to be happy? Over the past few summers, I have realized that happiness can not be bought. It is a state of mind that is priceless.

As I stumble out of bed at 5am to get to work by 6 I realize I really don’t want to do this, but tell myself its just one more day as I swig my hot coffee trying not to burn my tongue. I like what I do, riding the recycling truck, picking up everyone’s unsorted recycling, and getting yelled at once or twice because I am not allowed to pick up unsorted, overweight garbage. How do people buy so much when there is a pandemic going on? I would be more than happy to take their extra cash and spend it on frugal things like food and laundry, and I am the lucky one. I don’t have an addiction; I am not in poor health and I have my family.

In this life you have to appreciate the small things, like the beautiful sun coming up over the water and ignore the smell of sour milk and poopy diapers. You have to be thankful that you are still breathing. Listening to music or watching a funny movie on the tv helps as well as remembering to eat at least once a day.

How much water do you need when you are riding in a recycling truck with no windows, its 25 degrees outside and traffic is stopped because there is a fire blocking the road? The answer is more water than I packed with me. Unfortunately, there is a law that says you can’t go topless while working as it could cause an accident. It is days like today when it feels like the sun is burning my head like when I was a little kid and would try to set scraps of paper on fire by shining the sun through a magnifying glass. This is when the power of imagination comes in handy, imagining that you are jumping into a nice cool pool of water and sipping on a refreshing beverage.

I look at my cell phone and its only 10 o’clock, not even coffee time yet. Wait a minute I don’t get coffee time. The way I get through it is by imagining what I might find in the recycling today, a Chinese lantern, a set of coffee mugs, or maybe a giant Mickey Mouse. Yes that is what I have found so far on this wonderful day in the neighborhood.

Wow the last two hours slipped by without me noticing. It is lunch time and I am grabbing the famous sandwich and cold drink to go. No time to waste, those cardboard boxes and paper packing await. The thing I don’t understand is why it is so hard for some people to sort cardboard from glass and plastic. These items really do not look the same. It is the glass jars that are filled with some odd smelling liquid that challenges my sense of smell and fragile stomach.

During this pandemic it has been challenging to kindly remind people that I really don’t need the eighty-year-old grandmother or the kindly old gentleman who is on quarantine to come out of their homes and help me. I do appreciate the thought but as a member of the recycling team fighting to keep the city clean, I am not allowed to accept help and if you are quarantine please stay in your house and stay safe. This job requires diplomatic skills similar to the United Nations some days. Then there are always those people who no matter how many times you ticket their recycling saying you can not take it they keep insisting, running after the truck in the hopes you might change your mind. Really people it is not up to me.

Yeah it is 5 o’clock and my day is done in another hour or so. Time to head to the dumping site and give them this 5,000 kg present all compacted and ready to go. My feet are aching and my body is sore but I would not give up my job for anything. Each day offers a new adventure, a new bunch of recycling and new people to meet. Mickey will ride along in the truck, holding my mask for me and making me smile when the world seems so crazy.

Remember next time when you go to buy something think about where the packaging will end up and when your neighborhood recycling truck goes by give us a little wave. A smile can go a long way and remember the life of a working person isn’t always what you think it is unless you have walked in that person’s shoes and mine are size 13.

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