Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Smaller gift stash
given out with trash

The local tradition of leaving gifts
for refuse collectors is fading,
the workers say

By Treena Shapiro and Diana Leone

A dozen cases of beer, 18 cases of soda, three packages of macadamia nuts and $120.

That's what three refuse workers found left out with the rubbish on their 500-home route through Liliha and Kalihi yesterday -- a sign, they say, that the local tradition of leaving gifts out with the trash during the holidays is fading.

Kenneth Self, a supervisor at the city's Kakaako refuse collection yard, said he remembers when nearly every house left beer, soda, an envelope with money, rice, candy or cookies.

"This year has been kind of slow," Self said. "I think in the past, people have been more generous."

"Things have changed," said one refuse worker as he and his two co-workers divided a disappointing pile of beer, soda and other gifts. "People are different. It used to be tradition. It's a new generation now."

Those who give gifts tend to be longtime residents, he said.

Declining to give his name, he added, "Every year it gets not as good as it was."

However, he grinned when asked about the CDs his crew had picked up, including some autographed by Na Leo.

"Lehua (Kalima Heine) is on our route," he said.

Some refuse workers blamed the economy. Others blamed a restriction against carrying beer in the city trucks.

Wayne Perreira, a supervisor at the Kailua yard, said it could have been the rainy weather on the Windward side. He pointed out, however, that "there's no regulations on that."

"People give, people don't give," Perreira said. "It's not a must issue if they want to give."

A refuse worker who asked to be called "Wild Man" said that those who put out the least garbage tended to be the most appreciative of those who collected it.

The residences that put out "messy and pilau" rubbish, "they don't really care about the service we do for the people," he said.

"Wild Man" said the garbage collectors usually share their gifts with families and friends.

"It makes it easier for us to spread aloha during Christmastime so everyone has a good Christmas," he said.

Self, who has worked for Honolulu refuse collection for 29 years, previously as a collector and driver, said the best present he has ever received is "the smile on people's faces when they thank us -- even not on the holidays, people come out, especially the kids."

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