It was the first run of the day, a yellow 2 out of lower Lynwood, right off the freeway, starting at 4am. The first stop was a nice couple, probably early 70’s, we’ll call them Henry and Mabel. The other was a single, “Lauren”, several blocks away, maybe a bit past 60. Being locals, they could, and did, discuss the state of potholes, bingo at the senior center…it was so boring, I started driving faster, just so it could end sooner.
But then the conversation took a turn when they discussed hosting students. Lauren said, “I used to do that, but I stopped after I was raped at knife point by a student.” She talked about that for a bit. I couldn’t help it, I slowed down to hear better.
Mabel sympathized: she had once had a job as a bus driver at a mental hospital, and while driving was assaulted by Jimmy, a huge, freckled, gangly, mostly gentle, but occasionally violent, client of the institution. It was still on the grounds; she got the van stopped, tried to defend herself as best she could, but was choked and sustained a broken arm. The security staff heard her honking and came running.
When Jimmy saw them, he snapped back into docility. “I be good, Mabel. Jimmy be good now.”
“Damn right you’re going to be good,” she said, as the badged apes hustled Jimmy off for an impromptu Rolfing session.
This seemed to have blown the doors of the conversation wide open. Lauren talked about her three sons, all of whom became garbage men:
“Larry had a route that went through a rich neighborhood. He used to make out like a bandit at Christmas.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Oh, some of the rich families would get drunk and fight. And then he’d score a $200 sweater from Nordstrom’s, still in the box, sitting on top of the garbage can. Stuff like that.”
Another son, she said, had a lot of sex with women on his route: “Lonely housewives. He kept a collection of dildoes on his dashboard.”
Part of what makes my life interesting is short-term gullibility. I believed her, though somewhere in the back of my mind I was trying to picture having sex while your truck is blocking the street. Henry and Mabel didn’t have much to say about that story.
Then Lauren got onto a story about a plumbing explosion at a summer cabin: “There was shit flying everywhere, shit all over the walls.”
It was getting a bit weird. And—how did the dildoes fit in (so to speak)? Would you bother with toys during quick sex? Would a garbage truck driver really sport a pastoral tableau of dildoes in the window of his truck? (For some reason, I pictured them in a dashboard display of a meadow, a pond, maybe some toy animals contentedly grazing among them.) And how many women would want to have sex with an on-duty garbageman? I was starting to wonder about Lauren’s veracity, if not sanity. I started driving faster. Fortunately, we were now headed up the badly paved road to the airport.
I tried to steer the conversation towards potholes. Sometimes these old people scare me.