Seattle’s Hidden Dystopia

We’ve spent the past few weeks in temporary accommodation in an anonymous condo. After nearly a month of its bland tastefulness we’ve finally found a place to stay and on Monday we moved in. Our movers did a good job but they squirreled boxes and packing materials away throughout our place; today I gathered it up for disposal.

Now I could have waited for recycling day, but I’m (more than) a little type A and wanted this stuff out of my house now. Consequently I decided to take it all to one of Seattle’s two garbage transfer stations – basically dumps in the city.

The one I chose is conveniently located near the popular Gasworks Park and just down the street from a cute bakery/cafe. You drive up, pay a fee, slowly wind down a road alongside a warehouse while passing aesthetically planted trees. You loop about, pause outside the warehouse for your turn and then enter the bowels of hell.

The building is barely lit and its insides are stained black from the exhaust of a never-ending flow of trucks and their gift of garbage. Light streams in through grimy windows mounted high on the walls, bringing to mind a medieval dungeon with a tiny barred window at the top. Beeps and honks come from constantly moving trucks; machines grind and compact; the sound of Diesel engines is everywhere.

An entire half of the building is devoted to the disposal of non-recyclable waste. Trucks back up to a concrete pit and crews heave their wares downwards. An old sofa sits between building waste and what appears to be a hundred copies of an old record. Shredded garbage bags all ooze something gray, a bouillabaisse of slime. Pigeons flit about, pecking at any rotting gifts and a lone worker drives a bulldozer through it all.

What makes it all the more surreal is the mist. Falling from the ceiling like a thinly veiled waterfall. Millions of droplets gleaming individually as they pass through the grimy light, falling earthwards to trap dust and odor.

And then you pack up, drive out into a bring summer’s day, turn left and look at all the people having fun in the park. A uniquely bizarre experience.