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Commentary: Two Chihuahuas later . . .

If you only got your information about how the City works from watching television or from reading bits and pieces in the newspaper, you’d probably think everything begins and ends in the City Hall boardroom with the mayor and aldermen politely listening to groups of nicely dressed people reading prepared statements about the importance of City-owned polo fields and their effect on tourism on Main Street or nodding in agreement as highly-trained consultant-monkeys speak eloquently of the benefits of paying their company 6 bazillion dollars to do a study on rearranging the seating in the City Hall boardroom. 
While both issues, and others like them, are very important – I don’t know about you, but the thought of Our Town NOT having polo fields has kept me awake many nights, as has my tearful concern some consultants may not be able to pay their smart phone bills because we aren’t paying them enough – there’s a whole bunch of rarely-recognized stuff going on beyond the glitz and glamour of board meetings that actually fall into the category of “providing services” to you, the taxpayer, and that’s what this column is really all about.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been working for the City for a long, long time now.  I started out on the back of a load-packer collecting garbage and eventually worked my way up to mowing grass in City right-of-ways then to mopping vomit out of the elevators in the parking garages, so this column may seem to be a little self-serving.  I can’t help it, though, because sometimes I, and all the other fluorescent-vested folks I work with, get the feeling - and don’t like it – that some of y’all judge us based on the more-often-than-not crazy stuff coming out of City Hall that you read about in the paper or watch on t.v.
  Now I will pre-empt anyone who’s fixing to throw out the argument about us finding another job somewhere else if we don’t like working for the City:  You’re right…I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t want to and, as far as I know, none of the people I work with were begged on bended knee to come and work for the City; official begging by the powers-that-be is strictly reserved for perceived saviors from someplace else who will be offered a salary many times that of the average City worker.
Back to services.

I could go on and on about all the different things those of us below a certain pay-grade do to try and make life a little easier for the citizens but I won’t…this column would never end if I did.  Instead I’ve decided that, from time to time, I’ll write about a job or service you may be a little curious about or, in some cases, never knew existed.  I hope I do them justice.
This week, I’ll introduce you to Leaf-Sucking.

Every weekday morning at six-thirty, rain or shine - from October 1st to the end of January – five dump trucks mounted with big metal boxes leave the Streets Department towing giant vacuum machines behind them. 
In the cab of the truck is a driver, a raker, and a pipe-man; three people who will spend the next eight hours on designated routes through your neighborhoods looking for leaves that you spent your Saturday afternoon raking out to the side of the road instead of watching “Dirty Harry” or “Cool Hand Luke” for the eighty-seventh time like any other sane American male would’ve been doing. 
When the driver spots these leaves, he stops beside them and the raker and the pipe-man get out and turn the leaf-sucking machine on.  It is very loud.  The pipe-man then unhooks the pipe from the side of the machine and begins to swing it back and forth over the pile as the raker captures any leaves trying to escape, sucking everything up through the machine and into the big, metal box mounted on the back of the dump truck.  The pipe is about 18” in diameter; big enough to handle two Chihuahuas at a time, a basketball, or the toddler you forgot to watch when the scene with the girl washing the car in “Cool Hand Luke” was on. 

Eventually, after many stops, the box fills up and the driver then delivers the load of leaves and Chihuahua parts to the city composting site – something I’ll get into later – and then they start the process all over again.  When these guys get home at the end of the day there is leaf dust in their ears, their hair, and the cracks of their behinds.  It is a sucky job, no pun intended, but we do it anyway because that’s what you expect of us.

Come to think of it, it makes the job of consultant-monkey look pretty good.     
William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at

Posted on: 2/2/2014


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