It's addicting, strange and wildly popular, thriving in the dark underbelly of YouTube, where fanatics make their own videos, which are seen by literally millions of people.
I'm talking about garbage truck videos, amateur garbage truck videos.
In the vast world of things that were not on my radar before becoming a parent, I'm going to put garbage trucks on top. Sure, I noticed my husband dragging the bins out to the curb once a week, but I didn't give much thought to whether the vehicles that came to empty them were front or side-loaders, or whether they were made by McNeilus or Heil.
Not only did I give no thought to garbage trucks; I gave even less to garbage truck toys.
OK, so not only do people film and post videos of various garbage trucks just picking up trash bins; they also post videos of children playing with toy garbage trucks and tiny plastic bins. Oh, there is editing involved, the occasional wipe or dissolve, and some of these even feature soundtracks. (My husband's favorite, of course, is a young boy who plays with his truck to the tune of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" -- mean, mean stride.
Like sexual fetishes that would shock or confound you, this garbage truck thing has a much bigger audience than you would expect.
The most popular videos, in my house and pretty much in general, well, they go right to the money shot. No plot, no story, no character development, no music, no foreplay, just right to the point. Garbage truck drives up, picks up bin, DUMPS IT OVER. And my son watches and says, "Dump. Over. Dump. Over. Dump. Over."
The comments sections on these videos are revelatory. Sure, there are garbage truck aficionados who want to see a Leach rear-loader in action. But mostly, the comments are posted by either 1) parents of male toddlers -- not to be gender discriminating, just calling it like I see it, or 2) bystanders stumped by the astronomical number of views on these videos.
The production values are as low as the clicks are high.
And that's part of their creepy, homespun, amateur porn-like charm.
When I see a garbage truck on the road, I almost always take a moment to stare. See, this is one of those things that takes on meaning, like it or not, with parenthood.
I noticed strollers before, but I couldn't tell a jogging stroller from an umbrella stroller, didn't know or care which brand folds easiest or weighs the least. Not sure I care now, frankly, but I can tell you way, way too much.
Along with trucks and strollers, add diaper creams and mild foods that aren't choking hazards to things about which I now know way too much.
But back to talking trash. Like a hostage that must fall in love with her captor to survive, I have learned to appreciate the majesty of freaking garbage trucks. I have to, and let me justify it to you this way: You kind of take for granted that this giant, grand machine comes right to your house, reaches out with a mechanical arm and shakes loose all the refuge from your daily life and hauls it far away. Right? Oh, man. This really is a tough sell.
If I tell you to stop and take a moment to appreciate a garbage truck the way a child does, you would be right in wanting to pelt me with a handful of orange rinds and eggshells and coffee grounds and spent kitty litter. I would have that coming. Still, there is something to it. There is something to the whole "seeing things from a child's perspective" thing. While they sit staring in awe at the garbage trucks of Naples, Fla., for example, we just check the emails on our phones and make to-do lists and wonder if we should send them to a Montessori school. Meanwhile, they are schooling us just by letting the world's actual day-to-day wonders entertain and astound them.
While it can be intensely dull embracing the passions of a toddler, it also makes you realize how many amazing things -- the moon, the dishwasher, keys in locks -- we drop in our mind's waste bin, never to be appreciated again.