13th Drug - Welcome to Paris
2: Garbage Worker
A social services office outside the city of Paris. Monday morning, with a little bit of rain on the way. In the large room with many desks, and clerks working, a guy with long hair and in a polo shirt was sitting, and talking with a lady.
The office was just another office, in the long row of government buildings where I was sent. The window was large, and a little opened. The wood desk was government issued, and looked like an early communist model number one. Even in the western part of the world, that France, and Paris, like to be a part of, the government design still looked like the USSR.
I had done too much stupid in my life, and now I was damned for all eternity. I had never killed anyone or committed a serious crime, but that would change over the next couple of months.
"Be honest with yourself, and tell me what you want to do with your life," the lady bureaucrat behind the desk asked.
I had been asked that question by many people in my life, and I still had not found an answer that rung true inside myself. Being good at smoking weed, and drinking beer with your friends just sounded cool...
Well, it was cool, when you were eighteen, not when you were pushing closer to thirty. For some reason, this time the question struck something inside me, and the answer came out:
"I honestly don't know."
I frowned my face, and this time I thought it might be the right answer. The lady smiled, and gave me the paper with my work assignment: "Well, here you get to think about the question. Come back when you have found an honest answer. "
The paper said, 'Sanitation worker.' I could always become a garbage man, they made good money, but I had neither the physical nor the will to do that. And you could smell the garbage workers, even after they had a second shower.
It could have been my OCD, or ADHD, or whatever other bunch of letters that would describe me.... I knew I had to get there, and be on time, or else I would lose my apartment and what little money I got from the government.
That night, I went to bed early, and didn't touch the grass, I would save that for later, when the day's work was done.
The alarm went off too early, but I got out of bed, showered, and shaved. There might even be some ladies at work, and I'd better look my best. I got there in time, and just had a t-shirt, and jeans on.
I had a job two years ago, sorting trash, and that might be where I got my aversion to garbage workers. You thought sorting trash would be easy.? Do it in the high summer, inside a warehouse, with the sun baking it, and the smell. You could smell soiled diapers and rotten food from a hundred metres away.
This place was a service yard with a shed. A yard for recycling stuff like old windows. Glass goes in container number seventeen and wood goes in the fourth. There are twenty containers, and a medium-sized wood shed, where the workers are stationed. Old electronics had a container next to the shed, and I saw an old PlayStation, maybe a version two, in the container. I stood for a moment, and tried to figure out, what version it was, but then forced myself to walk away.
I walked the door of the shed from the container. There was a single car with a trailer carrying some tree branches that was driving around the place. They had barely opened, and a man wanted to throw out some branches from his tree. I came to the shed, and knocked on the door, and looked inside. A small desk, filled with small trinkets, like old model cars, that had been salvaged from the containers.
Behind it sat a large black dude, in a blue overall and a black shirt. You could not see where the shirt ended, and the big arms began.
He was making some kind of wire figure, by twisting the thin cable into shape. Next to him was the table for eating lunch, and behind that sat a skinny white dude, with a romance book in front of his face. A photo-model man with a bare chest and a large sword, fought with a ravishing girl on the cover.
I knocked on the door frame, and the guy behind the book said: "We are not open for the next hour."
I smiled at the relaxed attitude of the place: "Hey. I was told to report here, in ten minutes. Should I just wait outside.?"
The black dude looked up, and smiled. Somehow, black guys nearly always had a pretty smile. Maybe the white teeth looked better next to the black skin colour. His voice is deep and slow: "Hey new meat. Come in and make yourself comfy."
He motioned to a chair in front of his desk. I entered and sat down, placed my bag on the floor and smiled at him, but he was focused on the bending of the wire, into another master piece. He gave a short introduction. He was called Sebastian, and the skinny white one was Abraham. Sebastian put down his latest creation, and it looked like a small dog, or maybe a cat. He looked up and said: "So you are the new kid, that has to work here.?"
I nodded. He motioned to the yard and said: "We have three jobs here. Keep the yard in order, help the visitors, and clean up the surrounding area."
He leaned forward and smiled, with his white teeth: "You will have to clean up the surrounding area."
He pointed to some metal poles, and a roll of black bags, placed against the wall next to me: "Your job is to walk around those three housing projects to the north and pick up trash. Fill a bag with trash, and come back. Okay.?"
I nodded, picked up the poles, and looked at them. They were the normal type. Two grey metal poles, both with a nail at the end. One of them had some black tape around the top, the other was all metal. I chose the one with the tape, and pulled a black bag out of the roll, stood up, and asked: "Anything else.?"
When you had been forced to do a lot of different shitty manual labour, you knew they always took the piss of the new guy on the first day. Abraham said, from behind his book: "He took the one with the tape on."
Sebastian laughed out loud: "Damn. Some day you have to teach me that trick."
I looked at him, with the pole in my hand, and then at Abraham: "Was that a test or something.?"
Abraham looked over his book: "Just a bet, and I won it again."
He looked over the book and flipped through a page. Sebastian chuckled again: "Be back around twelve, and we eat lunch. Did you bring a lunch or should I order something.?"
I shook my head, and motioned to my bag: "No lunch. I didn't know if I would last that long."
Sebastian chuckled: "We got paid lunch, and I always order. Anything we should avoid.?"
I shook my head, as I stepped out of the small shed: "I don't like vegan, but I can eat it if somebody has a gun to my head."
The two guys looked at each other for a second, and then Abraham went back to his book. Sebastian stood up, and walked after me out of the shed. He showed me a map on a board. The map had four areas. Three areas, with three concrete high-rises on each, an open area with green space, and what looked like a small park. He pointed to a spot, at the lower end of the map: "This is us, and those four areas are yours to clean. One a day, and on Friday, you help us at the yard. Okay.?"
I nodded and was about to leave, when he placed a big black hand on my shoulder: "I hope you know how to take care of yourself. This is gangland, and they all have knives or guns."
I smiled at him, and shook my head: "Always a catch.?"
He smiled and nodded: "Be back at noon, and we'll see if you survived."
I turned and walked towards the exit from the yard, when he shouted at me: "Hey. You forgot the vest."
He came over with a nice yellow reflective vest, that I put on, and I asked: "So they have something to shoot at.?"
He laughed, and repeated: "Always a catch."
I exited the yard, with my black bag and pike. It could have been worse. I could have been sorting trash in the heat. I walked towards the first concrete high-rise, the grey with the green backdrop, and the balconies with their many different colours. Some even had satellite discs pointed at the sky. You heard music, some Arabic or maybe Hindu music, from an apartment close to the top of the five-story building.
You smelled the first flowers that bloomed this early in the spring, and the warmth from the sun that barely looked over the edge of the world. I found my first piece of trash and picked it up using the pike. The kids inside a fence were playing soccer, and they shouted when somebody was close to scoring.
The idea of spending my summer walking around this area as I picked up trash made me smile. Birds sang from the trees, bees buzzed, and all seemed right. The only problem, so far, was that it was an Arabic area, which meant that there were not so many girls sunbathing. I chuckled a little at my own bad joke, and found another piece of garbage and put it in my bag.
Later my phone notified me that it was ten to twelve, and my bag was about half full. Nothing special had happened, except for me helping a mother with her child, and scratching the odd cat behind the ear.
I walked into the yard and approached the shed. A small white van, with a food logo, was parked next to the shed. You smelled hot, spicy food, and heard some women laughing. I walked to the door, and saw a big black woman, who was holding Abraham, as Sebastian was arranging the food on the table. Abraham saw me and said: "Hallo New meat. How was the walk.?"
I smiled and sat down on the chair next to my bag: "It was okay. No shooting or stabbing this time."
The lady laughed at me, and gave Sebastian a short hug: "Now you take care of the young one, or I will have your hide."
She smiled at me, and walked to the door: "Eat up young one. You need it for the long walk."
She chuckled and exited the shed. After a moment, the truck started and left the yard. Sebastian motioned for me to come to the lunch table: "Come and eat. Sister makes the finest meals on the planet."