This is a cardboard truck…not what I’m talking about at all. I’m talking about trucks that collect cardboard. They have an unmistakable look, empty or full. Very high walls made of thin plywood…quarter inch, and a portion that comes over the cab and has walls as well. They are old pick-ups of any manufacture, full size or little toyotas, S-10s, rangers, with dirty ropes tied in criss cross patterns holding the broken down boxes in. The trucks often have been entirely covered in graffiti throw ups. The leaf springs are shot, so they ride low in the ass end. Often it is a two person team, sometimes man and woman (presumably a couple) or two men (presumably friends). They work late at night, after business’s have closed up and set their cardboard on the curb.
I’ve considered collecting cardboard myself. I have a truck. Just need to build up some support over the cab so a pile of Cisco boxes three feet thick doesn’t crush my roof. No problem. But that is below my class. It’s bad enough I stand in line to recycle my cans. The guy who weighs them hardly speaks english, and last time I went, we got into an argument where I should park.
An older man, spanish speaking, white eyebrows, looked at me and said, “come on, he working hard.”
I was the bad guy.
The old asian women and mexican men all knew I was above him in the class struggle and expected me to be a gentleman. A young white guy in his own vehicle, recycling cans. They resented me, resented the fact I didn’t have big bags stuffed with cans jammed into a baby stroller or the two wheeled carts you see in the asian markets, the ones made of thin wire dipped in blue or red plastic coating. Some people came on foot with sacks tied at each end of a long stick balanced across their shoulders. As though they’d walked from Mongolia. I fuckin’ drove to the recyclers? And wanted to argue about parking?
No matter how hard I try to remain salt of the earth, there is always some broke dick immigrant just a little bit saltier. You can’t get behind for trying in this country. I’ll always be big time to them. If I showed up at the cardboard buyer without any grafitti on my truck, those guys would hate me too. I don’t live in a shitty neighborhood where everything gets tagged. Sorry. I just want to sell a ton and a half of cardboard and get on my way.
Poor people expect more of me. I’ll never be able to just live my life. Too much pressure. I can read little thought balloons in cantonese and thai as married couples in their vehicles at the scale stare at me.
“What is that weird looking round eye doing here? He’s stealing our job.”
“Why isn’t he married yet?”
“He should work in computers.”
The fact is, there is a class system in america. Everyone loves to see someone work their way up, but even the lowest of the low resent someone who settles downward. The American dream has no room for contentment. The american dream is one of struggle. A dream that requires restless leg syndrome, keep moving, kick and roll, never rest as you claw your way to the top of the nearest hill, so you can get a better view of the next hill. Keep believing that where you are is not pretty enough, not high enough, not rich enough. Keep climbing hills. Befriend those going up, ignore those coming down.
So I’ll brave the murmurs and dirty looks at the CRV* trailer that sits in the Safeway parking lot out by the ocean. But I’m not getting into cardboard.
* California Redemtion Value
they spoke spanish. she handed the boxes up to him.