In the almost-dawn my eyes pop open with a sickening realization. I should know better by now, but sometimes knowing and doing are as far apart as off-key singing and talent. The familiar grinding of overworked gears and the sharp squeal of brakes tells me he’s still several blocks away. I leap from bed, knowing I've messed up again. I wonder if he even cares.
The approaching cacophony grows louder as I lurch around the dark room looking for my other slipper. In my panic to get outside before he arrives I forget about the dog and go airborne before executing a three-point landing on top of his water dish. Now my ancient pink flannel nightgown is soaked.
“Oh Lord,” I moan, “Please make him slow down. He’s almost at my door.”
Of course I know about personal responsibility, but still feel compelled to mutter and grumble. I hope the Lord understands.
“That grouchy old man’s stinking truck sounds worse than ever.”
By now he has turned the corner and I’m running down the driveway totally oblivious to my strange appearance. I’m soaked and have one bare foot. If only he’ll come to a complete stop and wait for just two minutes I can gather up what he’s here for…what he’s always here for.
I do a weird kind of hopping-sprint and flap my arms so hard it’s a wonder I don’t take off like some big, pink, wet, birdbrain.
“Wait! Oh please, can’t you stop for just a second? I can’t keep this gross stuff here another seven days.”
His unexpected screeching halt stuns me for a moment. Something is different. I look up into unfamiliar big blue eyes and realize this is not the same man. He throws back his handsome head and bellows with laughter. I have a flash of embarrassed indignation and stomp my foot.
“What’s so funny? This is why you get a paycheck.”
“Believe me, Lady, I deserve it. You have no idea the kooks I meet.”
He guns the motor as some kind of warning that I’m eating into his time trial. I hold up both hands in a pleading motion.
“Okay, if you‘ll just give me 90 seconds…and you can count…I’ll be right back.”
“Well, Cinderella, since you’re obviously a woman in great distress, you got it. Ready—Set—Go.”
As I dash back to the house I hear, “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi…”
Wow…cute and a sense of humor.
I clank and rumble down the driveway with my trashy overflowing receptacle just as he gets to ninety Mississippi. I suspect it’s at least his second round.
“Thanks,” I yell over the hydraulic monster that swallows up my leftovers and junk mail, “I promise I’ll do better next week.”
He waves and drives off, still chuckling.
Like a Girl Scout, the next week I’m prepared. My hair is clean and I’m wearing my best jogging outfit. I walk down the driveway in a slow and nonchalant way. The approaching gear-shifting noise a few streets over makes me a little nervous. I check to be sure I’m wearing two sneakers. The big truck turns onto my street and stops to send its robotic arms down to embrace the container that stores my weekly rubbish and disposables.
I have a bag of warm cookies at the ready in humble appreciation for his last week’s consideration. As I reach up toward his window he acts very surprised…as if I plan to do him in or something.
“What’s this stuff?” he growls.
Oh! It’s the regular guy; the grumpy one. He opens the just baked gift and stuffs his mouth with oatmeal raisin delight. I imagine he’s thinking I’m unusually thankful for my local Garbologist.
I’m speechless, while Mister Curmudgeon suddenly turns into somebody’s wise old chatty grandfather.
“You know, I took off last week and went fishing. Did you see the guy who took my place?”
I don’t answer. He doesn’t notice.
“That’s my new boss; nice fellow; said he met a cute but goofy looking, pushy kind of dame who forgot to put her can out on time. She was wearing one shoe.”
I can feel my face turn redder than radishes as Cookie Monster grins and takes a parting shot.
“Hey Missy…I’m going fishin’ again next week.”
Rumble, roar, and screech continues down the road. He slows and turns the corner. I push the city-provided bin to its parking spot and think about chocolate chips. I wonder if I dare.
I’m pretty sure I do.
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