I began to notice my relationship with garbage after I moved out of school. I had always gathered my trash into a small pack and took it out to the dumpster outside of the dormitory when I was heading out; however, after moving out of the school’s dormitory, I then frequently missed the garbage truck’s collecting times. I grew curious of when the garbage truck would arrive near my place. Where else does it stop, and what is the route that it takes? After visiting the office of the neighborhood’s official garbage collector, I began to follow my local garbage truck and took photos of it with the permission of the chief of the garbage collecting team. I met up with the team at around 5:00PM near Longtian Station, under the overpass of the No. 1 Provincial Road. I then learned that all the garbage trucks for Tainan’s Liujia District are all parked here. After communicating with the garbage truck driver that will pass by my home, I waited for them to depart. I began to follow the garbage truck and took photographs of it at 5:00PM sharp. It was difficult to follow the truck, because it moved rather fast, and I was unfamiliar with the streets we were on, so I nearly ran into the garbage truck on several occasions.
One day when we were about to take off, the driver said to me, “Do you want to get in the truck? It will be safer for you to photograph riding in the truck, and we won’t be distracted trying to keep you safe.” My perspective then transformed from an external, objective observer into someone that also participated with the tasks of collecting trash from inside the garbage truck.
The garbage collectors work in pairs, with one driving the truck and the other in charge of operating the garbage compression at the back. Garbage trucks are large vehicles, with three seats available, and I was sitting to the right of the driver at the back of the gearshift. Depending on the residents, bigger stopping points may have ten to twenty people waiting, and smaller ones with only two to three.
There is a small screen inside the truck that monitors the compressor at the back of the truck. Upon inquiry, I was informed that because of accidents in the past with people getting pulled into the compressor, the monitor is there to ensure the safety of the garbage collector and civilians. The driver routinely listened to a radio station that took requests from its audience, and the hosts of the program are mainly women with very cliché names, who played multiple roles of being singers and also salespersons that sold medicines during commercials.
After a trip with them, I realized that I was quite unfamiliar with most of the streets in Liujia, and when I tried to learn about the area with a map produced by the township office, I discovered that most of the streets on the garbage collecting route were not indicated on the map. It has to do with that some villages on the route only has about ten households living there, and the streets are probably unnamed shortcuts by orchards or paths next to local shrines. Also, the area is not clearly defined on Google Map; therefore, I began to draw out a route map of the garbage truck.
The video contains footages captured from sitting next to the driver and images from the truck’s monitor. In addition to seeing the villagers taking out their trash, the driver is also reflected on the screen, with the streetscape fleeting by on the monitor, as dialogues of everyday conversations were carried out, with talks about the local residents, villages, towns, historical origins of location names, and other mundane details.