6:15 this morning

6:15 this morning

youtube garbage truck fire chris congdon upstairs project

MSL unexpectedly came into the room while I was watching one of “those” videos that just show up in my feed sometimes.  Shit.  I fumbled with the touchpad on my laptop - started sweating a little and I felt my face flush and I couldn’t get my browser closed fast enough.

MSL: “What’s going on?”

Me: Nothing.

MSL: Are you watching something?

Me: Um, yeah, I guess so.

Caught and cornered with no other option, I turned the screen for her to see - afraid to make eye contact.

MSL: Is that ….?  Is that what you do in the mornings before I get up?  You watch that?

I admitted that it was what I did in the mornings before she got up.  I don’t know how I got started, but you know, Youtube has about a thousand videos of garbage trucks on fire.  One popped up as a suggested video and I watched it and then another one popped up, and now I can’t help myself.  Every day another garbage truck goes up in flames.  

Some of the videos are really well done with stable, nicely-framed shots that take in the entire scene, and closeups on the bystanders which lay bare the compelling human drama of the moment. It’s as if Ken Burns just happened to be driving by with a full rig and a camera crew and quickly decided to document the incident so that future generations could come to understand its significance.  

But most of the videos are really lousy - shot on a cell phone held the wrong way and with a hand so jiggly I practically get seasick watching it and some lady just off-camera shrieking, “Oh my gawd, Oh my GAWD!”.  But it’s captivating nonetheless.

From the quantity and the content of the videos, I gather that garbage trucks burn with regularity. All it takes is a cigarette tossed into a dumpster or the wrong two bottles of discarded cleaning chemicals coming into contact with each other and whoosh, the thing lights off.  Hydraulic fluid, diesel fuel and rubber tires make it hot and gooey and once it gets started, you’re gonna need professional or para-professional help to put it out.   

So the fire department comes with honking and flashing and shrieking of their own.  Sometimes in red trucks sometimes in yellow ones.  Usually they’re well-practiced and smooth and attack it in a matter of seconds, but other times they’ll stand around and talk about it for a bit, first.  “Whaddaya think Chief - should we squirt some water on it?”  Each video is its own story that plays out in its own way.   

Garbage trucks, are a difficult scenario for firefighters because of the tightly-packed, combustible cargo, and the heavy steel truck body makes it hard to get to.  In some of the videos, if the garbage truck’s mechanical systems are still functioning, they just dump the burning garbage in the middle of the street which is easier for the fire crew and makes a video-worthy mess  … but I shouldn’t tell you everything, you might want to go watch these videos for yourself and I’d hate to spoil them for you.  


We don’t have a TV at our house - never have had one in the 14 years that we’ve been married.  We were early adopters of the current trend away from broadcast and cable TV.  MSL would rather read a book and I’m too cheap to pay the small monthly fortune that the cable company demands to bring crap like CNN and MSNBC into my house.

I love that the focal point of our living room is not a big black rectangle that takes up an acre of wall space and that our coffee table isn’t crowded with a collection of remote controls.  A casual visitor to our home might notice the lack of TV and that we have a room full of books that we call “the library” and the visitor might think that we’re really smart people who operate our lives on a level above the pop-culture wasteland.

I feel all self-righteous and virtuous when I tell people that we don’t have a TV.  It’s a sanctimonious declaration that I don’t have time to waste on that low-brow drivel from the idiot-box. It makes me feel all - like - intellectual and stuff.

But the truth is that the internet provides us with plenty to watch without a cable TV company being involved.  Netflix and Youtube do not leave us wanting for video content to consume.  There’s those travel and food shows and vlogs that MSL and I watch together.  There are documentaries on just about everything imaginable.  And there’s that guy who goes around belching at incredible volume in public places and recording bystanders’ reactions and it is so immature and unbelievably obnoxious - yet harmless - that I almost wet myself and cracked a rib laughing so hard.  And, of course, there’s cats.  

And in these early mornings between 5:30 and 7:00 when I’m downstairs by myself with my coffee and my computer, sometimes I’m meditating on Big Serious Issues, and sometimes I’m working on writing these blog posts, but lots of times, maybe most of the time, I’m watching garbage trucks burn.  

Cars for Christmas

Cars for Christmas

upstairs is not my only project

upstairs is not my only project