For Ryan Rucker, a dad in Vacaville, California, the weekly summons comes on Wednesday mornings, usually around seven. For Rosanne Sweeting on Grand Bahama island, in the Bahamas, it’s twice a week—Mondays and Thursdays, anytime from 6 to 8:30 a.m.—and for Whitney Schlander in Scottsdale, Arizona, it’s every Tuesday morning at half-past seven.
At these times, the quiet of the morning is broken by the beep beep beeping of an approaching garbage truck—and broken further when their kids start hollering, begging to be escorted outside to wave or just watch in awe as the truck collects and majestically hauls away the household trash. Rucker’s daughter Raegan, 3, takes her stuffed animals outside with her to watch the pickup. Cassidy Sweeting, 4, enlists her mom’s help to deliver granola bars and water bottles to the three trash collectors. Finn Schlander, 3, invited the neighborhood garbage-truck driver to his birthday party. (Ultimately, he was unable to attend, but the party had garbage-truck decorations nonetheless.)
For decades, children have been fascinated by the garbage-collection vehicles that visit their home (as a kid, Finn’s dad wanted to grow up to be a garbage-truck driver himself, according to Finn’s mom), and their widespread fascination has been commemorated in a surprising variety of ways. The nationwide waste-disposal company Waste Management, for example, sells a branded WM garbage-truck toy on its online shop, and a representative for Waste Management told me that the company frequently receives requests from customers for things such as costumes and party kits for kids. Some city governments and waste-disposal companies have released safety guidelines for parents whose kids are especially curious about their garbage trucks. (“Wave from your window or doorway, keeping at least 20 feet of safe distance. Our drivers will wave back if they see you!”) Meanwhile, the children’s-web-series host Blippi, who has some 6.5 million YouTube subscribers, wrote a life-ruiningly catchy song about garbage trucks (“Some are blue, some are brown, and some are green / And wouldn’t you know it, there are some that can pick up recycling!”) that has been listened to a staggering 31.8 million times as of this writing.