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August 29, 2017: Oh No, Not the Midway!!

Change is a constant, and I am the sort who welcomes it. Jobs in which it’s the same old same old make me anxious – I crave variety. Fortunately, there is considerable variety in being a recycling supervisor.

There are both down and up times on this job. The down times usually occur right after the wagon pullers go out. And the up times occur when they come back. During the down times, I keep myself busy, hosing down the collection bags, cutting up cardboard and putting it in the roll-off, dumping cans and bottles into the larger bags, and emptying the gray water bucket into the larger bucket. During the up times, I assist with the sorting.

There was a steady stream of volunteers yesterday: this included Molly Boyer, the VCRS director. I gave her a lecture about the importance of outreach, and then sent her out to do a run on the red trail, where most of the food vendors are. Upon her return, she provided me with the Big Picture in relation to recycling. Says Molly, recycling volume can be equated with profit. Money pays for both a staff and outreach efforts. Outreach educates. Cardboard is the biggest commodity and a considerable amount is generated at the fair, primarily by the vendors.

After Molly and I talked, I looked around and noted that it was down time. It was 7 p.m. Three wagon pullers were out and we were caught up on the sorting. So I decided to go out and do a run with her.

We hit the red trail because Molly had heard that that the barrels were full and she needed to check out the barrel situation. Rumor had it that the red trail and the ag building were short on green barrels. It was overcast, chilly. We first checked out the area behind the vendor booths. I could hear the hum of the midway, but at that point it was just a hum. The green barrels were relatively free of garbage and a little less than a quarter full. The fair patrons were (in this area) doing a good job of keeping recyclables and general trash separate. A vendor wearing a jester hat gave me cardboard, enough to line the bottom and side of my cart. Indeed, life was good.

We continued on, first checking the barrels directly on the red trail, then venturing over to the green trail. Change occurred as we went from a low to a high density area. I noted that there was a correlation between the foot traffic and noise level and my anxiety level. The latter was off the charts by the time I hit the midway. What came to mind was Dante’s Inferno, a book in which is a self-description of hell. The inferno contains nine circles. If say, this was the Inferno, then I was caught between the third and fourth circles, respectively called gluttony and greed. Dante’s assessment was applicable in this instance but what was lacking was the tenth circle – ones that I labeled obliviousness and lack of common courtesy. What else can be said of an area in which a fair goer sits on the edge of a recycling wagon in order to talk with some friends or another tosses a nearly full French fry container into my cart.

I took a deep breath and focused hard on the task at hand. Molly was right. There was a scarcity of green barrels in the midway area. So fair goers were tossing bottles and cans in the red garbage barrels. I dug for them with my picker with a fanatic’s grace, all the while thinking that if I did not, this material would become landfill fodder. I had a fairly good haul but hit pay dirt in coming across a green can filled with bottles and cans. I lifted it out of barrel, bungied it down in my cart, and put a new plastic bag that I just happened to have on hand in the empty container.

I could hear, off at the distance, the Fab Four singing Hey Jude. I sang along, all the way back to the sorting area.

It was 8 p.m., the end time of the afternoon shift. I breathed a sigh of relief in noting that the other wagon pullers (and this included Molly) had parked their loads and left, for this meant that I now (again) had much-needed down time.

I first put the wagon cardboard in the dumpster and the bags of plastic and aluminum cans under the shelter. I then parked the carts, and put bags and pickers inside, so that the morning crew could quickly get on their way. I propped a pallet up against the washed collection bags so that they wouldn’t blow away. Lastly, I closed the dumpster and put a padlock on the sorting shelter door. I listened, but could no longer hear the Fab Four. No matter, I broke into song, singing my own version of Yesterday.

Next: 238. 7/30/7: Interlude: Living Off the Grid

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