Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Marlboro Man

I worked as a garbage truck driver/collector with one of my best buddies. He lived and died by the nickname. He had several that people had given him, some nice, some not so nice. He was also quite apt at assigning nicknames too. We've lost touch over the years and that's a shame; though, I still have fond memories of our grunt work we did together. Like I said, lots of people gave him some bad nicknames, but for me, at least, I'll remember him as the Marlboro Man.

Why Marlboro Man? Well, it wasn't because he smoked, and it certainly wasn't because he looked like the guy in the ads. To be honest, he looks like a pint-sized version of one of the "other" Baldwin Brothers--you know, one of the not-so-attractive ones. No, the reason why he received this nickname from me was that he was a walking billboard for Marlboro.

How did he get this way? Well, when picking up garbage all over apartments, condos, and trailer parks you tend to have a lot of smoker's trash. Back in the day Marlboro ran a promotion called "Marlboro Miles" and my friend was obsessed with getting free stuff. His scam was to collect all the Marlboro cigarette packets he could from the garbage cans on our route or anywhere really. But, he figured that as much of this crap that passes through the garbage in a day, he would have enough "miles" to get all the free tents, sleeping bags, parkas, and whatever other adventure seeking chain smoker apparel that he needed. The problem was, if you are against big tobacco, that the Marlboro logo was plastered all over the stuff .

He really needed my help to get the maximum miles. Because we took turns "throwing", which means you're the guy hanging on the back getting the cans and putting the trash in the hopper, you might miss out on some miles. So, he enlisted me in this scam and I went along with it cheerfully. At first, the idea of getting all this free stuff was really cool. I mean, we were going to split our miles 50/50. Yeah, I admit, I got a kick out of scoring empty packets of Marlboro's, but then the fun started to slowly die out for me.

We had to collect trash from a real rough trailer park. However, we always looked forward to going there. It was a friggin' miles gold mine! The problem came when the trailer folk got smart to our scam. There's no way that one person could smoke enough cigarettes to get the good prizes. But, to these people, their small time miles suddenly became quite valuable the moment they caught on to what we were doing. This was on a day that we had a big haul of cigarette packets. We were throwing them down on the street counting how many miles we had. A gang of yokels came up to us and asked, "What you want wit our cigarettes, huh?" We just ignored them, collected up the packets and hopped into the truck. As we were leaving, one of the guys in the gang ran behind the truck yelling, "You fu@&s stole our miles!" My friend stopped the truck and yelled back to him, "Well, you dumb shits threw them out so now they're ours" and then we drove away, laughing our asses off. After that little incident, the trailer park cut us off from their miles. However, we still had quite a racket going.

When it came time to cash in we were pretty excited. I thought of what I could get with my cut, I was going for a canoe and a parka. We had to cut out all the miles from the cigarette packets in order to send them in. As I did this, I started to have a moral crisis--would I be supporting big tobacco by accepting these gifts? I decided that taking these gifts wasn't what I wanted to do, so I gave my share of the miles to my friend. He was elated. He got so much stuff from them. I think that if we had started a year sooner he could have had a chance at the king prize, a Jeep.

After he got all of his stuff he needed to show it off. He wore his Marlboro gear anywhere he could. If we went camping, it was in a Marlboro sleeping bag, with a Marlboro backpack in a Marlboro tent. You could spot this guy out of a crowd so easily, just look for the dude dressed in blue denim with red, white, and black logos plastered all over him.

After we quit that job, I grew farther away from him. I no longer know what he's up to at all. I haven't seen him in years. I miss that guy a lot. It's a damn shame that things like this happen to friends. So, if you happen upon a tough looking, non-smoking short guy, decked out in Marlboro gear, let me know. It could be the Marlboro Man.

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