As a first-time parent of a two-year-old child I am now more convinced than ever that environment plays a major role in how we develop as humans. Not that I did not believe this prior to being a father, but nothing other than environment serves as a plausible explanation for some of my son André’s behaviors that neither my wife nor I can even begin to comprehend.
One of those behaviors is, ironically, his utter infatuation with trash trucks. I say ironically not only because neither my wife nor I nor any close relative care much for trash trucks but also because I happen to be the community organizer for Don’t Waste LA. Started last year, Don’t Waste LA is an effort to reform the commercial and multi-family waste industry in Los Angeles in a way that will, among other things, reduce trash truck traffic in the city. So trash trucks are not all that exciting to my wife and me, while for many Angelenos who suffer the effects of pollution, traffic and streets full of potholes, too many of them are actually a bad thing.
So what does André’s fascination with trash trucks look like, you may ask? All you need to know is that his first words as he wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. are, in this order, “milk” followed by “trash.” As my wife or I give him his milk, he stumbles out of bed towards the living room looking for his toy trash truck and trash bins that we finally felt compelled to buy for him two months ago (more on that later) and spends his first morning hours glued to his trash truck. A similar routine happens later in the day as he returns home from daycare and goes straight for his trash truck and waste bins as soon as he gets through the front door. Not yet convinced? Well, he also happens to take his toy trash cans with him to the tub as we give him a bath every night and he hugs his trash truck and says “good night” to it before going to bed. Different forms of this same routine have been happening for the past 3 to 4 months and there’s no sign of it getting less exciting for him.
As to where his fascination with trash trucks might come from, you can probably guess my theory: environment. We happen to live very near a major intersection in Echo Park that has a combination of single-family homes, apartment buildings of various sizes, a post office, a gas station, a few supermarkets and a myriad of other small, medium and large businesses. For those of you who might not be familiar with L.A.’s waste collection system this means that all single-family homes and small apartment buildings (four units or less) in my neighborhood get serviced by the City of L.A. once a week, and every other building gets serviced by multiple companies, multiple times throughout the day, every day of the week. Literally.
So for the past eight months or so since André started sitting at the kitchen table to eat breakfast he’s been seeing trash truck after loud, multi-colored trash truck parade in front of him through the kitchen window. This unfortunately typical urban L.A. environment has led to an unforeseen fascination with trash trucks that, if nothing else, made it easier for my wife and I to find the perfect birthday present for him (yes, those trash truck and bins). How long his fascination will last is unknown to us, but we – joined, I’m sure, by all our neighbors – are waiting with anticipation for the day when our mornings will be a lot less noisy, our air will be a lot cleaner and our morning commutes less congested. That will be the day when we have a more efficient waste collection system in Los Angeles. That day is coming, and when it does every day might still be trash day at my house, but on a much smaller, cleaner, quieter scale.