It's not a job that little kids want to pursue when they grow up.
The job isn't pretty, but it's one that has to be done.
The job? A garbage man.
Roy Swenson of Waste Partners in Pine River collected garbage Friday in Brainerd. Swenson said he has a dirty job, but he likes the work.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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"Everything in this world eventually turns into garbage," said Roy Swenson, route supervisor for Waste Partners Inc. in Pine River, who collects garbage five days a week in Crosslake, Pillager and Brainerd. "Garbage has to be picked up by somebody.
"People will ask me, 'How did you get into the garbage business?' They say, 'Who wants to do that? It stinks.'
"The smells can be overwhelming at times, especially on those hot summer days. There are pros and the cons of this job. I am not embarrassed by this job. When people ask me what I do I tell them 'I'm a garbage man.'"
Worst thing in the garbage: Dead fish. People throw it in their garbage and it bakes in there for seven days. You can almost see the lid moving from the maggots. A close second would be people throwing dead skunks in their garbage. I don't know why people can't dig a hole and bury it in the ground. The fish smell goes away after it's compacted in the truck, but the skunk smell lingers all day long.
Do you have the dirtiest job in the Brainerd lakes area: No. Farmers have a dirtier job than I do, working with manure and with their animals when they're having babies. I've done that job, it's not fun. The sewer business is a dirty job too. Putting in new sewer lines is no big deal, but when you have to fix an old one, it could be a bad day.
If you won the Powerball would you quit your job: I love working. My mother was a single parent and she taught me a good work ethic. I used to say that if a good chunk of money fell into my lap I would keep working. But my new theory would be that I'd quit work and go into coaching full time for youth programs. I love working with kids.
Grossest thing that ever happened to you on the job: We pick up sewer at the plants and when it gets compacted in the truck, the air gets sucked out and when the air gets real tight it'll spray out the sewer from behind the back of the truck. One time I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I walked behind the truck and I was given a shower.
Favorite sports team: Vikings, Twins and the Minnesota Gophers wrestling team.
Perfect date: Dinner with my wife and we'd go dancing. Then staying in a hotel suite to get away from home would be nice.
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Swenson said a garbage man is the most precise title that tells people exactly what he does for a living. He doesn't need to make up any fancy titles.
Swenson, who has worked at Waste Partners for five years, fell into his position at the waste management business. Swenson said the owner, Eric Loge, who he knew through coaching the Lakes Area Mat Rats, a youth wrestling team, approached him about the job. Swenson already had a job and he declined the offer. However, a year later the company he was working for was downsizing and Swenson decided to take the job at Waste Partners.
"Eric knew I was a hard worker and that is why he asked me to work for him," said Swenson. "At the time he didn't have anything for me so I started out in the shop, delivering and washing garbage carts. Within a few weeks I got a recycling route and eventually got into the garbage routes. Then after three years I got into the supervisor position."
Swenson starts his 12-hour days at 5 a.m. His first order of business is collecting garbage on his routes and then he works at the shop, which includes managing the other road drivers, cleaning up equipment and doing paperwork. Swenson said there are eight routes that go as far north as Hackensack, south to nearly Fort Ripley, west of Pillager and east to Emily.
"I have the easiest routes," said Swenson. "I have about 250-270 stops per day and the other guys have between 350-475 stops. We get out at every stop, not all garbage companies do that, but we do. If the bar on the cart is not facing the street we have a trick to spin it real easy. If people don't set their garbage cart on the street the right way, it's not the end of the world. We're here to do our job."
Swenson said one of the biggest pet peeves his garbage truck drivers have is when people call the company and say that their garbage cart was out and it was not collected, when it really wasn't out. Swenson said, "We have a checklist of all our stops and we know if the cart was out or not. We have no problem going back to get the garbage. But when people call and say that, it gets old."
Swenson said the best part of his job is working with the employees. He said his least favorite is washing the garbage carts.
Swenson, a 1997 Pequot Lakes High School graduate, is married to wife, Jana, and they have three children, Sheyenne, 12; Caitlin, 7; and Caleb, 4. The family lives in Pine River.
When Swenson is not working, he is coaching the youth wrestling team, which he has done for nine years. Swenson said he was one of the first students who was in the program when it first started.
"Wrestling is my favorite sport," said Swenson. "I love it and I love working with kids. I also have coached the girls' little league softball for three years."
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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