A day in the life of … a garbage truck team

Sayyed: Hearing a thank you or a pat on the back is what keeps us going

By Mike V. Derderian

After scanning the six mirrors lining the left and right sides of the truck’s compartment, Khader Abu Rommaneh nodded before he started operating the trash compactor. Two men dressed in orange overalls, in the meantime, could be seen standing at the rear loading area of the truck as its lifting contraption landed a dumpster onto the asphalt surface with a thud.

A short beep followed. Abu Rommaneh turned off the compactor before shifting into first gear gunning the truck through the back streets of Shmeisani. It is 8:30 a.m. and it is time to move on to another alley to collect the trash.

Nael Al-Joughol and Omar Al-Sayyed, the two waste disposal employees at the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), had already stepped onto two foot ramps and held on to the iron handles that are fixed to the rear of the truck as it labored its way uphill.

The three hardworking men, whose first shift starts at 7:00 a.m., constitute the team that operates this colossal vehicle-cum-machine.

“I always was into heavy machinery. I used to drive a truck, which made it easier for me to learn how to operate this one,” a vigilant Abu Rommaneh told The Star; boasting that he knows his work route like the back of his hand.

Despite the air conditioning, a tangible acrid smell that Abu Romaneh didn’t seem to mind filled the driver’s compartment. Imagine how the smell is in the rear loading area, where the two men are forced to stay throughout their shift.

No sooner had he turned on the compactor, than the compartment started shaking irregularly. “It has an 8-tonne capacity. If the trash we collect is moist the compactor would work more efficiently through more piles of garbage” shouted Abu Rommaneh, always on the lookout for his two colleagues, before he added with a note of sympathy, “I try not to push those two as they are literally running the route.”

According to Abu Rommaneh there are 126 garbage trucks working round the clock in the capital Amman and its suburbs. So how does a compactor work? The rear loader compresses the waste against the moving wall of a cylinder hidden under a rectangular crate. The elliptical non-stop motion moves the waste to the front of the waste collection compartment of the vehicle.

Moments before Abu Romaneh pulled over, the two men could be seen running past the truck and reaching out to few plastic trash bins lined at the entrance of a villa; they hauled the bins and unloaded them inside the compressor in a matter of seconds.

“Look they’ve started honking [referring to three cars stuck behind the garbage truck]. We try as much as we can to avoid creating traffic congestion but people who shift the dumpsters to the left side of the street force us sometimes to park more to the left. This is the biggest problem that we face during our work, which is the result of conflicting neighbors, who keep shifting the whereabouts of the dumpsters that are in place according to municipal charted plan,” complained Abu Rommaneh, who mans the large truck with dexterity.

Another problem that faces them is solid waste like pipes, rocks, dirt, bathroom accessories and tree logs that the compactor is unable to crush. “There are special vehicles that roam the streets and clear such harmful objects out of the dumpsters,” Abu Romaneh, added, “People think the compactor can go through anything.”

As the two men stood knee deep in a pile of garbage at the loading area of a mall both men worked a total of 11 minutes. They patiently cleared bags of decaying meat and vegetables in addition to other types of soggy foodstuffs that emanated an unbearable stench—all the while without a mask.

“It is our job to keep Jordan clean,” said Joughol, who started out 12 years ago as a street sweeper and is now a truck runner, “I am content with what I do for a living.”

The three men, who head out to their families at the end of a non-stop six-and-a-half-hour shift, are proud of their jobs, which help maintain their country clean and disease free.

“Hearing a thank you or a pat on the back is what keeps us going,” stated Sayyed, who has been working for GAM for the past ten years, adding, “Surely there are people who sometimes treat us badly; however we cannot do anything but be polite and ignore their remarks and continue our work. “

The three men, Abu Rommaneh, Joughol and Sayyed, work together with an uncanny synchronization. They don’t need radio communication as their facial expressions and hand gestures are more than enough to get them through a taunting day, whether it was during hot summer mornings or freezing winter afternoons.

P.S:

A few days prior to the writing of this article Joseph Zakarian and I took a ride with the hardworking team of this garbage truck. While I sat in the front talking to Abu Rommaneh the amazing Joseph Zakarian, a great friend and a greater photographer, spent the entire time with the two GAM employees. It was one the best outings for a Day In the Life piece.

This piece/blog post is dedicated to all the hardworking waster collectors of GAM without whom are country would be flooded with garbage.

These pieces have been taken verbatim from the original edited series “A Day in the Life of a …” published in The Star Weekly on December, 16, 2004 , as I want to remind myself of my progression as a writer.

The series was edited by Walid Kalaji without whom I would have never scratched the skin to reach the mettle. I added the V a few years later as a tribute to my amazing father.

A total of 44 pieces were written. God willing I will publish one each month.

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