Letters: The Thrill of Garbage Trucks

Readers consider why kids are so fascinated by trash-pickup vehicles—and why adults aren’t.

Mike Blake / Reuters

Why Your Kid Loves the Garbage Truck So Much

For decades, children have been fascinated by the garbage-collection vehicles that visit their home. Last month, Ashley Fetters talked with parents, children, waste-management professionals, and experts on childhood about their theories as to why.

I work for the Department of Sanitation in New York City, and it amazes me how many kids love to stop and stare at my collection truck every day. Whether it’s 100 degrees or 10 degrees, a smile and a wave from a child makes my heart melt. I smile back, and it puts me in a great mood no matter how hard my day is. It’s my favorite part of the job.

I can give you a little insight on why kids love garbage trucks so much: It’s kind of cool to see a huge piece of furniture disappear in about 10 seconds. We load couches, dressers, and other large pieces that are there one minute and gone the next. Kids watch in amazement when the blade of the truck comes down, makes a loud noise, and breaks a dresser in half. When we plow the streets in the winter, how can anybody not stop and watch a beautiful rooster tail of snow being tossed aside? Even after 18 years of doing my job, I’m going to miss it when I retire.

Mike Anderson
Sunnyside, N.Y.

And I thought my son was the only garbage-truck nut! By age 3, he was so fascinated by the trash pickup that he and his younger brother would run to their playroom window to watch this loud, wake-you-up ritual every week. When the men waved up at them, the thrill was simply unmatched. Later, they would play in the backyard as the men riding on the back of the truck. The large overgrown honeysuckle vine branches entangled on the fence were the perfect height for a 3-year-old. They would “ride” the vines like garbage trucks before jumping off to grab their “trash” from the yard—buckets from the sandbox, errant balls, watering cans.

In their 30s now, they may not remember this as their mother does—or they may not want to admit that they do.

Becky Wiemer
Los Angeles, Calif.

When we asked our friend’s 5-year-old son what he would like to do when he grew up he said, “I would like to become a garbage-truck driver.” When we asked him why, he responded, “Because I would have to work only on Tuesdays!”

Werner Geissler
Munich, Germany

I live in an apartment complex for seniors in which the garbage is picked up daily, early in the morning. As soon as my cat hears the noisy truck approaching, it becomes excited, jumps to the window, watches the crane raise and lower garbage bags, and follows the truck as it leaves. Trash pickup is indeed quite a spectacle, but ignored by adults. Maybe the article asks the wrong question? Should the real question not be why children and cats are so interested in garbage trucks, but rather why we adults are so good at ignoring them?

Anthonie W. Muller
Amsterdam, the Netherlands