view from the sky

In fall of 2009, I started working in a building on de Gaspé street adjacent to the Maguire meadow. My new office window looked out over it and, out of more than 100 people employed by my company, I realized I was the only one with a view when seated at a desk.

At that time, the street outside the building entrance was being torn up. Somebody drew a line on the ground to cut the concrete only to realize, after having made the cut, that the line was in the wrong place. Instead of cutting into the earth they had cut into the ceiling of the new underground parking lot. The ceiling did not fall, but heavy trucks could no longer enter the loading dock from the street. This included garbage trucks.

A dumpster was placed outside the building in a little triangular gravel parking lot, just on the other side of the fence from the meadow. All winter long, the building’s garbage, piled into large open boxes, was removed by a forklift and emptied by hand into the dumpster that sat below my window. This practice continued for months, many times a day – rain, wind, or shine. Nothing was bagged. Loose paper, cardboard, and plastic sheeting were carried off into the air to accumulate in the meadow and surrounding streets and properties. When the dumpster was too full to empty, the truck driver would toss out the extra garbage, which would be left to lie where it fell.

Being somewhat of a garbage aficionado, I rather enjoyed watching the whole process. I had the perfect view to examine every scrap of waste the building had produced. Many times I scrambled down to the parking lot to recuperate something: a computer cable, a shelf, a light fixture. One particular night, close to the onset of winter, I found myself atop the dumpster surrounded by a mob of people, throwing down stacks of jackets vests and snow pants, all new clothing with little defects in the snaps or zippers.We did not appreciate the full extent of the garbage that was blown out of the dumpster until the snow melted in the spring. I was not expecting anyone to care about the disgusting state the land had been left in. Most of the people I work with seem somewhat oblivious to the neighbourhood in which they spend one third of their lives. So it was with great surprise and much relief that an empty truck and trailer appeared there one morning. The same guy who had scattered so much litter all winter actually got down on his knees and picked everything up. He probably filled up the truck and trailer four times to haul everything away. Stories like this do not come with happy endings too often; it was more than a little relief.

Jacques Gallant

When Jacques Gallant isn't busy saving orphans from burning buildings he can be found chest deep in multiple community based projects. He has worked on everything from building a wood-burning bread oven from scratch to making solar powered popcorn popping machines to feed those orphans he saved earlier. Don’t be fooled, Jacques isn’t all action and no play. He can regularly be seen riding his hand-made bicycle through the streets of Le Plateau Mont-Royal.

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