HAMLET — Like her biblical namesake, Jezebel has insatiable appetites — but not for power and, erm, romance. Rather, Jezebel loves trash.
Mounds of it. Bags of it. Curbside carts full of it.
“(She) likes to eat,” confirms Ray Ellerbe, half of the two-member crew who rides with the lumbering garbage truck three days a week over the streets of Hamlet. “She should get an upset stomach because she eats everything” — more than 20 cubic yards each haul.
Yes, Jezebel has a bit of junk in her trunk. And a distinctive, shall we say, fragrance that becomes more noticeable the longer her route stretches.
At 12 years old, more than 122,000 miles logged in fits and starts, and countless tons of garbage consumed, Jezebel has earned the right to retire from city service at summer’s end. She will be replaced by a new model and called on to work only when a sister truck — Bertha, Lucille or the new model — breaks down.
Ellerbe and crew member Ty Young alternate tasks with Jezebel, driving and/or hanging off the back end in 30-minute shifts. They pull the lever that makes Jezebel crush her haul into a smelly mash. They wear puncture-proof gloves and bright orange shirts for safety and visibility — none of which helps when a trash receptacle overflows with not just trash but ants.
And they pamper Jezebel.
“This is our girl,” Ellerbe said with affection before Tuesday’s run.
To which Young added: “If we treat her right, she treats us right.”
Jezebel works three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday. One day a week, she gets a shower and scrub-down.
“She likes people to look at her,” Ellerbe said, smiling at the truck as if it would agree.
Still, some people aren’t as kind to Jezebel as Ellerbe and Young would like.
“We had a woman pull up behind us and say, ‘Would you get that stinky truck out of the way?’” Ellerbe remembered.
“‘It didn’t stink ‘til we picked up your neighborhood,’” he answered her.
“I don’t know what they want us to say.”
The complaint probably came on a Tuesday, which boasts the most stops and, thus, the biggest trash haul.
We drove with Jezebel this Tuesday as she started and stopped, backed up and pulled forward, ever chewing up the things people tossed to the curb. Throughout the route, a light rain fell.
Tuesday’s may be the smelliest route, but it also was picturesque, winding past horses in pasture, tiny white churches and tidy homes with two cars in the yard.
Jezebel and her sister trucks have put in yeoman’s work for the city, said Billy Stubbs, Hamlet’s director of public works. Trash trucks usually last about seven years, but Jezebel has been nursed through more than a decade.
“We stretch to get the life out of any of our equipment,” Stubbs said. “Our biggest thing is upkeep on our trucks” because the city doesn’t have the money to replace ill-cared-for equipment.
“These trucks could be anywhere else (and) you’d get five, maybe six, seven years out of them.”
Hamlet City Council voted last week to buy a new 5-ton garbage truck, as well as vehicles for the Police Department. Cost for the new truck is approximately $140,000.
Reach Christine S. Carroll at 910-817-2673.