Mark Nettles says he likes being a garbage man.
Mark has worked in solid waste in the Clinton Public Works department for almost five years. Every day at 7 a.m., he starts his route. At 9 a.m. on Thursday Mark was headed back to the north end of town. The week starts at the south end and they move north each day for their routes. Mark’s shift ends at 1:30 or 2 p.m., depending on that day’s route.
The garbage truck Mark drives does not look like the ones some people may remember. The back of the truck is not open. Instead there is a door on each side of the truck. This truck does not have any other workers hanging on the back, ready to hop off and get the trash. Mark says he does his route by himself each day.
Inside the truck reveals two driving areas with separate steering wheels. On the driver’s side is a traditional truck seat and steering wheel. Mark really only drives in that seat if he is driving a longer distance without a stop. Every weekday, he can be seen operating the truck from the passenger side. This side has a much lower floor. Mark said it is actually easier driving on this side.
Mark said he likes driving his truck and often enjoys just being alone. Usually he will turn on the radio and sing along with the country music station. Mark does not have any trouble driving the large vehicle, maneuvering it through the streets and turning corners with ease. He said there is “really not a lot to it.”
“Mirrors. Have to use your mirrors,” Mark said as a tip in operating the truck.
Normally, Mark drives through the alleys to collect the trash. Thursday he was unable to due to the snow, so people had to place their trash near the road in their front yard. Some people forgot to make this change and Mark was unable to collect part of his route.
The collection of trash goes rather quickly. He stops at a house, jumps out of the truck, throws the trash into the truck and jumps back in the truck within one minute or so. Mark said he has to be quick as he picks up a lot of trash each day. In the winter, he collects an average of 8,500 to 9,000 pounds of garbage a day. In the summer, the average is 10,000 a day. After tossing in trash and getting back in the truck, Mark pushed a green button and the trash is compressed.
Mark likes his job, but says sometimes dealing with trash can be unpleasant. A box of blue latex gloves sits in the truck. Mark pulls a pair on before putting his regular, winter gloves over them. He said the worst thing is getting poked and cut when he does not know what is cutting him. Mark also hates cat litter due to its weight and smell. He said one of the worst things that can happen is to get it on you and smell it all day.
Most of the people are nice and helpful, said Mark. Some people will write a note on bag warning him that it contains broken glass. Others make sure the bags are not sitting in a pile of snow.
“It’s nice for people to at least think about what we’re doing out here,” he said.