By: Chuck Orloski
“Pretend that you owe me nothing, and all the world is green,” Tom Waits, from the L.P., “Blood Money.”
In December 1989, two months married, I shared good news with my lovely bride Carol. After a job search which began to look like the ones for Noah’s Ark, I excitedly explained how a local firm, Phoenix Environmental, Inc. had hired me as a technical salesman for brokering transportation & disposal (T&D) options of both RCRA Hazardous and Non-RCRA Hazardous waste materials. With confidence, I figured my mind would no longer be simply prostituted, “it will be profitably turned to waste.”
So for the next week or so, I’d cram study the names of E.P.A. designated hazardous inorganic metals, and other materials dangerous to human health and the planet. For example, while in bed together, Carol never had a headache, but after hypnotic listening to regulatory recitations, including arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and silver, Carol would fall asleep prior to my sexy whispering of “F-Listed” chlorinated solvents into her ear.
On the job, and ready to tackle our nation’s vast hazardous waste disposal market, I spent an 8-hour shift on the company telephone, and finally found one industrial client prepared to meet with me. My congenial boss, Michael L. offered sincere congratulations, and I professionally explained how the Harrisburg factory had several hazardous solvents in their process!
“What’s more, the plant’s owner agreed to personally meet with me, vowed to provide his waste stream Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) so that we could offer him a ‘competitive’ price quotation for Phoenix unique transportation and disposal (T&D) service. My lucky day, eh Mike?”
“That’s terrific news, Chuck! I just knew you could make a Gorbachev shift away from studying Politics in the U.S.S.R. to the environmental cleanup movement.”
Overjoyed, I felt like climbing Scranton telephone poles and find transformers that contain CERCLA hazardous P.C.B. Oil, and offer Pennsylvania Power & Light a price quotation that they could not refuse.
Dressed in spiffy Oxford blue shirt and khaki pants, along with required hard hat and safety glasses, I entered the Harrisburg-based factory and watched skilled machinists at work, listened to the sounds of lathes and air powered tools. Soon I sat directly across from the Canadian owner’s desk, and as I tried to project a combined image of Colonel North and Carl Sagan, he carefully “sized me up.”
“OK, Mr. Orloski, I’m impressed. But please tell me what you know about solvents except all the usual E.P.A. bunk, and the fact that Safety Kleen makes a ton of money from me by selling their parts cleaning equipment and monthly service?”
“Well,Sir… Hmm, I know solvents are flammable, some carry E.P.A. code D001, and when they become dirty unusable waste, transportation and disposal gets very expensive.”
“O yea, Orloski. Spent solvents have high B.T.U. value, and since this is your first sales appointment, I want to congratulate you, and share a little story about solvents and assholes in the workplace.”
“Yup, they’re pretty dangerous characters, but I know “Generators” of waste solvents can save money by shipping the materials out to cement kilns, and undergo “fuels blending” processes!”
“Well, I know one ex-employee who I’d like to incinerate at this moment.”
“What do you mean, Sir?”
“Well, Orloski, it’s like this. In my factory, I make sure all the machines that generate waste solvents are placed in 5-gallon metal pails. Each machine gets a pail, and when 90% full, a maintenance worker is assigned to consolidate the solvent into a 55-gallon D.O.T. approved drum.”
“O yea! Excellent compliance program. So you use 17-H containers, eh? Why I can sell you drums too at a competitive price of course!”
The owner shook his head in dismay, and brought his reactive thoughts to bay.
“Please just listen, Orloski, until I finish what need be said?”
“You got it, Sir. Sorry about going off on a pail tangent.”
“One day, I had this goofy worker who always seemed to be in a hurry to punch out early so he could go home and coach his son’s Little League game. It was his job to take full pails of waste solvent and carefully transfer all liquids into a labeled 55-gallon drum. You with me so far?”
“Yes, yes. Sounds like a pretty important job?”
“The job’s not rocket science, Orloski! But on this one stinky day, the mother decided to spare himself from taking an (expletive) walk outside the facility and dumping the solvent into a drum which we kept securely stored inside a pad locked shed. In a hurry to punch time clock and go home, he took the solvent filled pail inside the Men’s Room with him.”
“O man… then what happened?”
“The smart ass figured he’d save some time by pouring the chlorinated solvent into the toilet bowl and flush it away.”
“As a historian, I’m afraid to tell you that, for several decades, many American factory and oil company owners practiced such easy disposal methods. Of course, and as you know, those waste disposal techniques hurt water quality and killed fish. Do you fish, Sir?”
“Fuck fish and the Chesapeake Bay! The asshole flushed the toilet, sat a moment, looked at nearby Hustler, and decided to fire up a Marlboro!”
“Yikes – this guy had no environmental conscience. A weirdo and he smoked too!”
“Yeah, he always bragged to the office broads, ‘Fine taste, Good tobacco,’ and what’s more, the moron tossed the smoldering match into toilet bowl, solvent flame rose and his balls got incinerated!”
“(Gulp) An unfortunate industrial accident, eh?”
“Yeah, yeah, I had to immediately call 911 and have the nut taken to an emergency burn center. Then an (expletive) OSHA team came into my factory, searched all records, including Health & Safety policy, and they made me feel like the accident happened purposely in order to cut over head. (Sigh) After all the OSHA fines, law suits, and media punishment, I really wish his dick burned too.”
“Jesus, Sir. Where does he work now?”
“Look, Orloski…, how’s about we stop right now, and you can just fax me a quotation for disposal of my hazardous waste streams? (Pause) And tell me why the (expletive) should I follow such a dope’s fortunes?”
“Well, minus key parts, maybe the guy entered a seminary?”
“Look here, I can’t stand him! ASAP, get me Phoenix Environmental, Inc. best T&D pricing and let me know what E.P.A. Transportation, Storage, and Disposal Facility (T.S.D.F.) you plan to use!”
“OK, Sir will do. I believe we will send your drummed waste solvents to Frontier Chemical, Inc., a T.S.D.F. located nearby Niagara Falls, NY – perhaps at $250 per drum! You know the N.Y. Department of Conservation has an office at this place?”
“Look here… at this point in my life and career, I don’t care if the waste goes to Spahn Ranch and the Manson tribe is doing quality control and (expletive) treat-ability studies! I think I can do business with you, Orloski, but let’s not jump to honeymoon just yet!”
“O, that’s very cool to hear, will do! Here, as a gift of goodwill, please accept this Phoenix Environmental Inc. magnet, ink pen, and my business card.”
“I’m not much into stupid wall magnets these days, but like I said, fax me the quotation ASAP, and give me a call in about a month, we’ll talk.”
After such an educational and successful first waste disposal meeting ever, elated, I hop skipped through factory parking lot, and climbed into the seat of our 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier. Instantly, I seized the company “Bag” telephone,” dialed home number, and wife Carol answered.
“Hey, this is Chuck!”
“No shit Sherlock? How did your sales meeting go?”
“Ha-ha… straight to business, Carol, you’re so romantic!”
“No, no, not tonight, relax, it’s that time of the month.”
“Well, I’ll be home soon, and in a good mood! And if my potential client does not suffer Cardiac Quotation Arrest, courtesy of boss man Mike, we’ll have very juicy monthly commission checks coming soon!”
“I hope something works out for us this time, Chuck.”
“No problem, Carol! American factories are generating tons of hazardous waste everyday, and most of them need skilled people like me to help them dispose their waste materials.”
“God bless the USA, and arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and silver.”
“Hi-ho silver, Carol, E.P.A. code # D011.”
“When you get home, don’t expect dinner, ’cause I gotta report to work at The Castle Restaurant, 5 o’clock sharp!”
“Got it, no problem whatsoever, and I’ll do McDonalds again. Just never toss cigarette butts into Ladies Room toilet bowl, honey?”
“Humph, it’s a deal… but be sure you clean out our parakeet cage bottom and perch tonight!”
“OK…, well don’t work too hard, Carol.”
“You too, love you, and I hope you keep making the world green and bring home the bacon!”
“Yes my dear. Looks like President Reagan’s ‘trickle down’ has reached us.”
“Yup… a paycheck then the negative pressure of bills takes it all away.
Nearing Interstate 81 North, Lebanon Exit, my “Bag” telephone service out of range, and all that remained of Carol’s voice, a fading whimper. That moment on, scuttle all environmental ideals, I determined to locate all “Generators” of RCRA Hazardous Waste in Pennsylvania! Spent mercury containing blood pressure cuffs, mountains of staged soil contaminated by diesel fuel from leaking “Mom and Pop” underground storage tanks, and auto garages stuck with 250-gallon totes filled with Used Motor Oil. Land filling, waste water treatment, incineration, stabilization, whatever the (expletive) market wants! Come 1990 and the Republicans, I had much value to offer industrial America. I really started to Go Green, but wholly ignorant of Higher Economic Forces, I failed to foresee the coming of “Free Trade,” as hazardous chemicals in-the-work-place went over seas, along with “good paying” US jobs. O for the profitable days of Superfund sites, Hard Love Canal, L.A. smog, and a shot glass of old Flint River water and Bourbon?