Chris Perry Column: Last Line Of Defense

Jason Graziadei •

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Raise your hand if you are a Landfill Scofflaw...

Come on, don’t be shy. It’s OK. For most of us, outside of a little slap on the wrist, there’s no jail time or fine to pay.

But for some, there should be.

The majority of us are guilty. You, me, your friends from Surfside and the guy driving the construction debris truck. Routinely, we head west on Madaket Road with a bag of unsorted household trash mixed in with our full loads hoping we can sneak by just one more time. We dodge the police parked just after Eel Point Road looking for uncovered loads but can we duck the watchful eyes of Rose, Patience, Eileen, Lauren, Valerie and Merlene?

Often referred to as the Great Soverino Giveaway, the Landfill is leased and run by Waste Options of Nantucket. Outside of the “Madaket Mall”, it’s not the Town of Nantucket or the DPW, but rather it’s Waste Option’s responsibility to run, maintain and staff the site including the six-woman team asked to police the household trash area.

Like most of us who “break” the law at the landfill, I am a Level One offender. I bat about 94 percent. We know when we seal up that last, clear plastic bag that there’s something in there that shouldn’t be. Sheepishly, we get a slight hint of satisfaction if our dump run goes smoothly; but by the time we get back out on Madaket Road, we are generally feeling a little guilty.

Level Two offenders are a tad more committed to their crime. Nothing malicious mind you but they are multiple bin violators. Clear plastic looks like clear glass so why not? Bulky...That’s an open invitation for just about anything.

Level Three is borderline sinister. We probably know one or two of these guilty miscreants, but the women are sadly familiar with far too many. There’s an art to their dump deliveries as they seek out confusion and chaos which generally leads to an open door. Rehabilitation is an option but rarely is it effective.

Level Four is truly criminal. Offenders are routinely way out of line; not because they think their trash doesn’t stink, but because their behavior does. They are cruel, humiliating and degrading. This is where the Nantucket community needs to step up.

If you don’t believe me, ask Waste Option’s last line of defense.

“I am just trying to do my job,” said Patience. “Often times, people show no respect. They start swearing and physically stalking us and then tell us to go home. That hurts.”

“I’ve had customers throw stuff at me - screaming and cursing,” offered Lauren. “One time, a guy went ballistic over a mattress. He had a hose in his hand; and if it wasn’t for Trooper Bates who happened to be nearby, he was probably going to hit me”.

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Lauren went on: “Another time, a guy came to the scale and I informed him that he owed money on his account. He rolled down his truck window a little more and started swearing at me then spit at me through the open window before driving off”.

“Some people just won’t listen,” said Merlene. “All of us try to be respectful but people start swearing, spitting at us and getting out of control. I hear this all the time - if you want to sort this bag so much then you can do it. Then, they throw it at us and stomp away”.

“I just think there’s no love in their hearts,” said Rose one of the longest tenured employees of Waste Options. “I’ve been screamed at, chased, stalked, humiliated and spit at. We try our best to keep things civil and are trained to de-escalate any problems. We are only trying to do our jobs; but when I am physically challenged, I just walk away. It hurts. I know I am not doing my job when that happens but what am I supposed to do?”

“I remember one guy dressed in a shirt and tie with nice shoes,” offered Patience. “He had a couple bags of unsorted trash that he was dumping down the plastic bin. I asked him to sort it first. He looked right up at me - finished dumping the bag down the bin - then threw the other bags at my feet before walking away.”

I asked the women: “Does this behavior take place just during the summer?”

“There are more incidents in the summer because we are busier but it happens year round,” answered Valerie.

“Every day... males and females too,”, Merlene added.

“Every day?” I asked with some reservation.

“Every day!” they emphatically responded in unison.

This is not Nantucket’s finest hour. While this seems to be a clear case of some bad apples spoiling the whole barrel, it is clear that the number of bad apples is significantly higher than one would like to believe. While there are plenty of examples of where the general public does step up and come to the support and aide of these workers, frankly speaking, there’s an element out there that treats these ladies like s**t.

As Merlene pointed out, “There are some really nice people out here. Most come and go with no problems. In fact, some people come right out and say - Hey, I am new to this, can you help me out?”

Even Valerie mentioned the “younger children who love to throw things down the chute”.

Nevertheless, something is not right. Clearly, the Waste Option site should be run more efficiently. There needs to be a second scale. The entire campus always looks like a mess and the environment and dynamics are not healthy. But that does not justify abusive behavior regularly directed towards J.P.’s crew.

Spitting at 61-year-old women who’s just trying to do her job...Really?

Sadly, these ladies are forced to respond to hostile situations on a daily basis like a police line confronting an angry mob. Interestingly enough, I think it brings these women closer together like a family under siege; but if there was ever a time where the punishment should fit the crime, this is it.

For those Level 4 Offenders, it’s easy...

Switch places.

Make them handle the trash for a day - a week. Let’s see how they respond to being sworn at, spit on, humiliated in public and physically challenged. In this case, two wrongs do make a right because how sweet would it be to see one of these bozos having the nastiest bag of maggot filled, unsorted trash thrown at their feet, and then, told to go home.

I’d pay to see that. In fact, speaking for the vast majority of people on Nantucket who are Level 1 Offenders, we would promise to thoroughly sort every bag of trash from now on if we could witness that exchange.

As Matt Damon asked the “Barney’s” sitting inside the bar in the movie Good Will Hunting: “How do you like them apples?”

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