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Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

After privatized garbage pickup started for households west of Yonge Street this past Tuesday, CUPE 416 – the union representing city workers who used to work that route – responded by setting up a telephone hotline, Waste Watchers, dedicated to fielding complaints about privatized garbage pickup. The Globe got an inside look at the action as the calls started to roll in...

Somewhere in the bowels of CUPE. A man is slumped back in an office chair snoring, his feet resting on a computer keyboard. A telephone rings. It rings some more. It stops ringing. It starts ringing again. Finally, the man stirs from his slumber. He pours himself a coffee, flosses his teeth, does two jumping jacks, and answers the phone.

WASTE WATCHERS: Weight Watchers!

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CALLER: It's waste watchers. Waste watchers.

WASTE WATCHERS: Oh, boss, it's you.

CALLER: Just calling to see how it's going.

WASTE WATCHERS: Incredible. There's only been two calls since this morning.

CALLER: Excluding the two times I called?

WASTE WATCHERS: Nope, including those. This is a dream job. Although the chair here is murder on my back.

CALLER: We pushed to get La-Z-Boys written into the last contract, but the Ford brothers screwed us.

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WASTE WATCHERS: It's a race to the bottom.

CALLER: Amen.

WASTE WATCHERS: Anything else?

CALLER: No, why?

WASTE WATCHERS: I should, you know, get back to work.

CALLER: Oh, there was one other – [click]

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The CUPE worker hangs up. He pulls down the window shade, yawns, and leans back in his chair again. The phone rings.

WASTE WATCHERS: Hello?

CALLER: Hi, I have a complaint about the new privatized garbage pickup.

WASTE WATCHERS: On a scale of one to ten, one being angry, and ten being vein-popping rage, please rate your dissatisfaction with Toronto's privatized garbage pickup.

CALLER: Eleven.

WASTE WATCHERS: You're sounding more like a soft twelve.

CALLER: I mean, would it kill them to be a little surly?

WASTE WATCHERS: Dave?

CALLER: Had you goin', pal. How's the your first day on the new job?

WASTE WATCHERS: Awesome. I mean, busy. Super busy. I can't talk.

CALLER: Hey, are you still interested in buying that Jet Ski from my brother in law?

WASTE WATCHERS: I can get it cheaper in Buffalo.

CALLER: But if – [click]

The CUPE worker hangs up. He wraps an airplane neck pillow around his neck and inflates it. Then he lowers a sleeping mask over his eyes and leans back in his chair. The phone rings.

WASTE WATCHERS [angry]: What is it!

CALLER: Oh, hello. A garbage truck just went by and one of the workers threw my green bin down and now the lid is cracked.

WASTE WATCHERS: I feel your pain, brother. Please state the address.

CALLER: 43 Cedarview Crescent.

WASTE WATCHERS [typing into a computer]: Wait, that's east of Yonge Street. This hotline is just for complaints west of Yonge Street.

CALLER [confused]: Oh. Do you happen to know the number for – [click]

The CUPE worker hangs up. He plugs in an air compressor and uses it to inflate an air mattress. He tests the air mattress for firmness, releases some air, then tests it again. He puts a CD into a stereo and presses play. He lies down to the sound of waves lapping and seagulls cawing. The phone rings.

WASTE WATCHERS [monotone voice]: Please hang up and try your call again. This is a recording. Please hang up –

CALLER: It's me!

WASTE WATCHERS: Oh, sorry boss. I thought –

CALLER: Listen, you never heard this from me, but you gotta take it easy.

WASTE WATCHERS: What?

CALLER: If this complaints hotline is too successful and CUPE gets garbage pickup west of Yonge back, you're out of a job.

WASTE WATCHERS [stunned]: It's like the harder I work, the more I make myself obsolete.

CALLER: Ain't that always the way.

WASTE WATCHERS: Thanks for the heads up.

CALLER: Hey, that's what friends – [click]

The CUPE worker hangs up. He walks over to the wall, unplugs the phone, lies down and goes to sleep.

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