I looked at the worker cards stuck into a bar on the Plexiglas
window. The rectangles of cardboard were soft with handling, inscribed
mostly with Italian and Irish names, and coupled with trucks identified
with an alphanumeric. As senior men, Sullivan and Murphy had exclusive
day use of truck CN191 (another team would use it at night). The junior
men took whatever they were handed. By now, about thirty men were
standing around smoking and chatting in their dark green DSNY
sweatshirts. The garage had one female sanitation worker, but she wasn't
in today. When I'd meet her later, she'd invite me to use her private
bathroom, which was decorated with cute animal posters.
New to this scene, I was struck by the way the men spoke to one
another. They were loud and harsh, in one another's faces. They seemed
quick to anger. Maybe there was too much testosterone in a small place.
Or maybe just too many men who didn't like to have a boss breathing down
their neck, a factor that had lured some of them to the job. Inside, the
complaints never ceased. So-and-so was an idiot. The night crew never
did its job right. The boss could go to hell. I'd be crushed by such
contempt, but no one here seemed to mind.
Terlizzi was parked behind a small desk. He was tall and thin, with
wavy silver hair, high cheekbones, and a bemused manner. "I'm missing a
truck," he told a clerk, irritated. Its collection ticket, which would
state how much weight the truck had tipped at the transfer station,
hadn't shown up in his paper or electronic records. The clerk opened a
program on the ancient computer and scrolled down. "I checked that
already," Terlizzi barked. The clerk sighed, and Terlizzi stepped out to
Two to a truck, the men roared into the twilit streets, and soon the
office fell quiet. After asking me to sign a waiver, Terlizzi handed me
over to John Burrafato, who worked on Motorized Litter Patrol. A
pugnacious man with a small black mustache and a military bearing,
Burrafato cruised the district in a department sedan, making lists of
bulk itemspallets discarded in an industrial area, a blown tire in the
middle of the roadto be collected by truck. He noted problem areas and
wrote $25 summonses to residents who didn't follow the recycling rules
and $1,500 summonses (going up to $20,000) for wholesale illegal
dumping. Because DSNY spent relatively little on public education, only
a minority of city residents seemed to understand all the garbage rules.
Being pugnacious, then, was a prerequisite for this job.
Burrafato was supposed to bring me up to my neighborhood, where
Sullivan and Murphy were already at work. But he wasn't ready to do this
quite yet. First, there was paperwork for him to clear, then a mechanic
to insult. I sat on a brown footlocker and read the the Daily News
while he flitted in and out of the office. Terlizzi had found his
missing truck, but the air was still poisoned with his ill humor.
Someone on the telephone was pressuring Terlizzi to sign off on some
forms. He said, "I didn't say when I'll do it, but if you need it
right now, I'll come back there and do it!" He leaped to
his feet and slammed down the phone. "Fuck you!" he shouted at
the supplicant, who could easily have been me. Just yesterday, I had
been pestering him on the phone about getting the waiver. "You make that
coffee yet?" he growled at Burrafato now.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...