As part of my adventures in newspaper reporting, I spent 75 minutes inside a recycling facility today.
This is the place where everything goes "away" to when you throw it away.
Trash trucks pull up and dump their loads in the middle of a 50,000 square foot warehouse. John Deere skiploaders roar up, scoop the refuse and deposit on a wide conveyor belt.
About 50 young men stand at stations, each one pulling off an assigned kind of recyclable or reject.
One guy concentrates on wood scraps, another on steel cans, and so on. They toss their particular kind of stuff down a chute, where it lands with a loud bang in a gigantic metal bin on wheels.
It was, to put it mildly, disgusting. Noisy, dusty, smelly, with God-knows-what floating through the air from every kind of thing people have tossed in their recycling bins...and believe me, I saw a lot. Car bumpers, toys, Christmas trees, clock radios, on and on and on.
I left feeling like I was covered in a thick film of germ-ridden muck. Nothing that a few hours of soaking in a 10% bleach bath and burning my clothes won't take care of.
I was talking to my old work friend Matt and shared the scene with him, trying to joke away the awfulness. Matt is great for that sort of thing.
He and I have endured much together and usually go down the humor trail of 1) We're totally incompetent 2) We're probably drunk, too and 3) We deserve to be employed in a job that doesn't require much in the way of thinking or responsibility.
I told him about the poor schmucks who have to stand in this environment every day, hand-sorting filthy refuse.
"Oh wow," he said. "Are they hiring?" (For the record, Matt has an excellent job and is good at what he does.)
"Why yes, I believe they are," I said. "In fact, I believe they are always hiring."
"Imagine that," said Matt. "Maybe I should apply."
"And you know the best part?" I said. ""Just think of the reaction when you're trying to impress a woman and you tell her that you're the plastic milk carton guy."
"Oh, I'll bet the ladies are all over that action," he agreed.