March 5, 1995 in City

Nominate Your Trash Master For Top Of The Heap

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

You’ve heard of the Oscars, the Grammys, the Tonys….

Let me introduce you to one of America’s lesser-known achievement awards: The Ruffies.

Sounds silly, you say? Hah. How silly does free garbage bags for life sound?

That’s what you get by nominating the lucky trash collector who rises to the top of the heap to become the Ruffies Sanitation Worker of the Year.

I could certainly use a lifetime supply of garbage bags. You can’t imagine the ungodly amount of smut I get, such as the following actual unsigned letter some cowardly weasel mailed me the other day:

“I cut out your column and am sending it back to you,” it read, “as it is not fit for my recycling bin!”

I wish my editor had guts enough to use the telephone.

But I digress. You’re probably asking yourself, do we as a free nation of Republicans running Congress need to salute someone who carts away our wads of sneezed-on Kleenexes?

“I think sanitation workers are some of our unsung heroes,” says Jane Keenan, a cheery New York public relations flack who is paid to promote this weird contest on behalf of the Ruffies garbage bag company.

Americans accumulate 160 million tons of trash a year, says Jane, enough to fill a convoy of garbage trucks 145,000 miles long. It’s a nasty job, but as those wise philosophers, The Coasters, once observed, “Take out the papers and the trash. Yakety-yak. Don’t talk back.”

Get this: The Ruffies corporation will give $10,000 in cash to the top sanitation worker and $5,000 to the runner-up.

“How about nominating me,” pleads Bill Vensel, a district supervisor of Spokane’s department of Solid Waste Management. “I’m raising two grandkids at home, my wife can’t work, I’m supporting my daughters and…

Stop talking trash, Bill. This isn’t a Biggest Whiner contest.

Jane says the city where the winner works will get a cool $2,500.

Spokane needs the money. It could help pay for a new science center or another psychiatrist to come in and analyze hot-head City Council members like Chris “Everyone’s Out To Get Me” Anderson.

Because of the unseemly nature of the job, hardworking trash collectors tend to get woefully ignored.

Yet garbage workers trudge out every day, braving the same thankless weather as U.S. Postal workers. And when’s the last time you heard of a crazed garbageman ventilating his co-workers with an assault rifle?

Dave Hames, who supervises a South Hill garbage collection route, says garbage collectors see it all. “Everything that has been made has been thrown away.”

Hames has worked 30 years in the trash biz. “When I hired on it was $10 a day and all you can eat.”

There are plenty of examples of garbage workers who go above and beyond, such as the time Hames had to pick up strange latex sex toys and even inflatable women.

Once a body was found at the North Landfill. Police figured a transient checked into a motel Dumpster for a snooze and got hauled off to the Great Beyond.

Another time, Hames says, garbage workers returned thousands in negotiable bonds to a person who accidentally tossed them out.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons for the Sanitation Worker of the Year to be one of ours.

Hames is even nominating one of his crew, Brian Reinhart, who sounds like a possible winner to me.

He’s a perfect employee, says Hames. “Hard-working, honest, plus he passed all our drug tests.”

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