today was my last day at the landfill.
it was the last day of the first job i had after college and 90% of the time i was really miserable. the majority of the work was rote and monotonous, out in the elements, breathing in dust and dirt and diesel fumes, either bored out of my mind or constantly trying not to get run down by dump trucks. (really—more than once other people on site would pull me out of the way of a truck by the back of my safety vest. on one job i became very adept at filling out my paperwork and running across the bottom of the pit dodging trucks at the same time. useful skills in their own rights.)
most of the time i was so sunburned my muscles ached or the tips of my ears swelled, or so cold that my feet up past my ankles stayed numb for hours until the feeling came back and it felt like my feet were on fire. it was so bad the morning at the height of the polar vortex that i sobbed in my car after the first round of trucks, turning up the radio so the other guys working with me couldn’t hear me shouting through biting my jacket collar.
but other days, it was nice. i’d only have a handful of trucks and could spend most of the time reading. it was the only way i could finish a jane austen novel, trapping myself there with it.
the people, though. the other people who did what i did who even if i wanted to wring their necks sometimes i couldn’t help but love them because they went through the same shit right by my side and they knew, okay, they KNEW. the weird little family in the landfill office that i got to join for my last three months at this job, the ridiculous occasionally irritating group who today, on my last day, ordered pizza for lunch, picked up a huge cake with “Good Luck Haden” written on it, who also included a bunch of captain america things, like stickers and a notebook, alongside a card signed by everyone from the head manager to the guys who work the bulldozers up top.
and even the other people whom i only interacted with every so often: the regular truckers, the construction workers i worked with three different times on three different sites. people with accents and names from latin america and ethiopia and kurdistan, and you could never get their stories but you know they had them, and they worked long hours in a thankless job in a thankless industry, and i tried to be kind. to remember their names from day to day, sometimes job to job. little things.
everything was equal parts ridiculous and awful. the same site where i first experienced serious sexual harassment was the same site i had to chase my inside out umbrella across an empty dirt lot and where my finished first-round paperwork and i got completely soaked by the spray of the water truck. some days working the scale windows at the landfill you got to play with a trucker’s shih tzus and another you find out a couple regulars are registered sex offenders. ups and downs like any job, but not in the same way.
it’s been an I interesting fourteen months. in retrospect, in some ways, it was good for me. but i’m still glad i get to move on.