5 Horrifying Things Only Garbagemen Know About Your Town
Severed human limbs, priceless watches, and live puppies -- you'd be shocked at the shit people throw in the trash (including actual shit). Yeah, it turns out that being a garbage collector is a way weirder job than you'd think.
Cracked wanted to know what life was like behind that stained plastic curtain, so we reached out to a pair of sanitation workers named Sarah and Andy who make their living hauling away your dirty old bullshit. What they told us was downright alarming ...
Your Trash Collector Knows All of Your Secrets
If you want to learn somebody's deepest, darkest secrets without hacking their computer or breaking into their house, all you need to do is look through their trash. So there's a good chance your garbage collector knows you better than your own mother knows you.
"I've seen your phone bill; when's the last time you even called your mother?"
If you're a binge-eater, they've seen the evidence. If you use adult diapers, they've found them. Sarah told us about an ultra-Christian lady she had on her route. The lady had a pretty righteous reputation in town, but Sarah knew her only as the woman who printed out enough bestiality porn to make a 10-volume coffee table book of interspecies erotica. She didn't have any kids, so this wasn't a case of some boner-popping 13-year-old printing out weird shit on his mom's computer. And it just kept coming -- every week there was more. Why bother to print it out? Why throw it away? Let us pray that we never find out.
Meanwhile, one day on Andy's route a man came out and tossed his garbage into the back of the truck, where it burst open like a dirty pinata, spilling a good 35-gallon bag full of gay porn everywhere. Too much porn, really. And according to Andy, "It was the same every week -- he'd throw away two 50-gallon bags of DVDs and magazines. Pick your fetish and it'd be in there ... we're pretty sure he must have been a porn distributor or something. No one could go through that much on their own."
Some say he was a porn vigilante, stealing and shredding for the good of the children.
Andy also once found a box with at least 15 decidedly fanciful vibrators in it. "Some of them looked like they could twirl around and scratch your back," he says. "Anyway, we tossed them, but they wound up shaking out and falling down the sides of our truck." So as they drove off, they left a trail of broken dildos behind them. Whoever owned them was probably pretty surprised when they turned onto their street on the way home from work that day.
It's not all hilarious or embarrassing, though. Sometimes you're party to people's very old tragedies. Sarah once found piles of decades-old baby clothing, toys, and books. They were all unused and pristine aside from being around 50 years old. As if someone had lost a child many years ago and had finally decided to let go of all the stuff they'd been saving.
Seriously, call your mother.
And this is just the stuff that couldn't be used to steal your identity. People throw away an astonishing amount of personal information without bothering to shred any of it -- Sarah has found bank statements, tax documents, and even birth certificates just sitting completely intact in the trash, as if people don't realize there is an entire sector of blue-collar workers who are literally paid to go through their garbage. "Personally, I don't even throw that kind of stuff away anymore," Sarah says. She either keeps it forever or makes sure it's too destroyed for someone to tape it back together like the Penguin in Batman Returns.
Speaking of which ...
They Work With the Police if You Have Incriminating Garbage
You don't see this on cop shows, but the police totally enlist the help of garbage collectors, because you can't expect detectives to go picking through moldy lettuce and cat litter just to solve a murder. They leave that kind of work to the professionals.
Remember that time Briscoe kept puking on Logan when they were sorting through old diapers at the dump? Didn't think so.
For example, near Sarah's route is a known meth haven, and from time to time the cops would ask her and her co-workers if they had found any particular kinds of trash. "They'd want us to look for certain kinds of containers or chemicals," she says -- basically, anything that would indicate somebody was Breaking Bad out there. If there was a robbery someplace local, she'd be asked to look for burglary paraphernalia. "We got told to keep an eye out for cash registers in the trash at one point," she says, because robbers will take registers home and then just toss them in the garbage and expect no one to notice.
Meanwhile, Andy has had the police take entire loads of trash from him. "Some of my co-workers have had the police come in and shut down their incinerator because they've run across drugs or corpse parts," he says. One company had to stop work at their sorting facility because the police found body parts dumped strategically around town in different places, and they needed to search ALL of the trash to find the whole body. Two years ago, a recycling site near Andy found a human leg, even though legs aren't technically recyclable outside of a Frankenstein scenario.
You don't want to know what body parts they found in the "cans only" bin.
Oh, and Sarah once had a guy on her route who threw away a bag of puppies. Literally, a bag full of puppies, straight into the garbage can like they were stale Doritos. "Most of them died, and we got as pissed as you'd expect," she says. She called the cops on him, and the guy wound up going to jail for animal cruelty.
What You Flush Winds Up in the Trash
Have you ever flushed a line of floss, a condom, or a feminine hygiene product down the toilet? You know, because who wants to put that gross stuff in the garbage, right? Well, guess what -- all you did was force somebody else down the line to fish it out and then throw it away. Contrary to popular belief, throwing garbage into pools of water doesn't make it disappear. If you're flushing anything but poop or toilet paper, you're just fucking up the system.
For instance, goldfish grow into crocodiles, we heard.
Thus, trash collectors regularly have to go collect the cans at water treatment plants, because obviously anything that isn't water gets filtered out and disposed of. So all of those condoms that get flushed? People like Andy and Sarah get to deal with those, only after they've been swimming through miles of sewage and gotten filled back up like Christmas stockings for terrible children. All the insane things that people flush down the toilet ("Jewelry, toys, God only knows what else," Andy says) eventually wind up in a sanitation worker's hands, coated in a sloppy layer of buttstink.
Meanwhile, people frequently throw actual shit in the garbage, just in case forcing trash collectors to sift through rivers of corrupted sewer water wasn't quite enough. In addition to the bags of shit-laced kitty litter you get from pet owners, Sarah runs across plenty of human feces. Not in a diaper, mind you, just tossed loosely into a garbage can like an old magazine. That stuff winds up in the same pile as trash from people getting home care -- we're talking syringes and IV feeds, all covered in human blood, just wrapped up in a plastic garbage bag rather than a sharps container. And right next to it is a pile of milky shit, just waiting to ooze into the cut that bloody syringe made through your work gloves.
Where the fuck is WALL-E when you need him?
Have you ever dumped loose trash into a dumpster, whether because you were in a hurry or just wanted to save a garbage bag? Yeah, don't do that. It turns out there's a reason we're expected to secure all of our waste inside plastic bags, and that's because dumpsters and trash cans break, which means Andy and Sarah have to deal with any of your loose filth that happened to be inside as it goes blowing down the street. "I've had liquid dog crap run out of the trashcan and onto my pants, or splash up into my face and nose," Sarah says, all because the dog's owner couldn't be bothered to put it in a freaking Rite Aid bag or something.
Andy had a customer who just threw condoms out directly into the trash can, not in a bag or anything. This is another way of saying that one of them plopped right out onto Andy's arm. "I was like, 'Do you people have no common sense at all?'" he says. How does that even happen? That guy would've had to carry the condoms, in his hand, all the way out to the garbage. That, or just walk out and shake his dick over the can like it was covered in ants.
People Throw Out Cash ... and Unspeakable Horror
People have an unusual habit of throwing away crazy amounts of money. Sarah routinely finds complete and valid checks that she could totally cash if she wanted to (the checks get shredded instead). Part of the problem is that the age you start receiving social security checks is often the same age you start forgetting to cash them. It's not too surprising when you think about it -- some lady in her 80s having trouble remembering whether or not her husband is still alive is going to throw away her mail from time to time.
Safer than letting it pile up and crush her.
What's really weird is how much money they find inside other items. "You always want to check the pages of old books, because people cram so much cash in there," Sarah says. It's as if they got partway through building a mystery mansion and then just gave up and put everything out on the curb.
Someone on Andy's route four or five years ago tossed about $15,000 in cash in the garbage. A man had it stashed in a Styrofoam cooler and his wife threw it out because she had no idea it was in there, which is kind of what happens when you put your money in random boxes instead of a bank. "They shut down the whole site to look for it," Andy says, "but we never found it."
That's our story and we're sticking to it.
It's not all buried treasure, though ...
Sarah was a rural garbage collector, so she always knew when deer season rolled around because every street in the neighborhood turned into behind-the-scenes photos from an Eli Roth movie. People put their excess deer bits inside cube-shaped bins, and since deer season is in the winter, the deer giblets tend to freeze into delightful mounds of horror for Sarah to pick up.
"With such bricks, I shall build my meat castle."
"Yeah, it looks like the bastard child of H.P. Lovecraft and a companion cube," Sarah says. "The first time I opened a bin like that I had to double-check to make sure it wasn't made of people. If you ever need to hide a body, deer season is the time." Just glue some werewolf fur to it and nobody will know the difference.
They Take Your Trash Home
There's a reason the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure" exists, and that's because people routinely throw away valuable things simply because they don't want them anymore. This is especially true of old people, who often accidentally throw out real treasures (like those checks we mentioned earlier). And considering all the bloody piles of shit condoms we regularly force sanitation workers to deal with, it should come as no surprise that they have absolutely no problem with taking those treasures and either selling them or keeping them for themselves.
"A little spit 'n' polish, and it'll be just like new!"
"One old lady on our route lost her husband, and a few weeks later she threw out boxes and boxes filled with pictures," Sarah says. The husband had apparently fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, so the pile included tons of his war memorabilia. "It was so much history, but the lady just didn't want it anymore. So we kept it," she says. "Once, we found this ink blotter from the 1920s that wound up being worth over $700. Someone just chucked it for being trash. That happens a lot -- older folks wind up throwing out stuff that's old crap to them, but a valuable antique to everyone else."
And remember the lady who threw out all those old, unused baby clothes?
"Like I said, they were pristine. So we sold them to a vintage shop and pocketed the proceeds."
It seems callous, but when you shovel millions of pounds of garbage for a living, things just become things after a while.
That severed human leg fetched $34.99.
"We have one guy who must be part bloodhound, because he's found two Rolexes so far," Andy says. One watch just needed a new face, and the other was perfect outside of a busted band and a dial that needed replacing. That's several thousand dollars' worth of watches that only needed minimal repair, just tossed out like old guacamole.
Andy himself found a legendary stash of Playboys from the '60s and '70s once, in perfect condition. "Three or four of them had Marilyn Monroe in them," he says. "Long story short, my (now) ex-wife made me give them up." Which presumably means he had to put them in the garbage for someone else to find, which is probably why Andy came across them in the first place, like some bizarre nudity chain letter. "I still kick myself in the ass for that to this day."
Robert Evans's first book A Brief History of Vice is available for pre-order now. It's filled with guides to recreating ancient drug-fueled debauchery!
Related Reading: Cracked recently spoke with former child reality star Michael Thot about his experiences recreating Lord of the Flies with real kids. We also heard from a young woman who grew up as the unwitting accomplice to a murder, and another young woman who was raised in a Christian fundamentalist cult. If all that sounds too serious for you, we wrote this article with a male porn star. Have a story to share with Cracked? Find us here.