A few Saturdays ago I was on my way to the University Chapel in Mona to attend the wedding of a very close friend of mine. Upon reaching the stoplight at the intersection of Old Hope Road and Tom Redcam Drive, I noticed a garbage truck ahead of the vehicle I was driving.
I was struck by the sight of the person on the back of the truck, obviously a woman. Impressed, I got closer, then followed the truck to its next stop.
She politely gave me her phone number after accepting my request to talk, then before I could move on, I heard a voice from the cabin of the truck: "A nuh one, a two a we. Yes, a two woman."
The following Monday I met with the two ladies, Marcia Campbell, 40, and Savon Abrahams, 36.
MARCIA Campbell was born in Brown's Town, St Ann, and according to her, she has always been impressed by the jobs men do and wanted to imitate them.
"From I was a child I have always loved hard work, but never dreamt that I would ever work on a garbage truck," she laughed. "After I migrated to Kingston I did several jobs to survive, but after a long spell of unemployment I could not take the hardship any more. It was at that time that I made up my mind to do anything for an honest bread and went to Shaw Haulage company where I asked Mr David for some work."
She said he sent her over to Premier Waste Management where she filled out an application, even while being told that she "couldn't manage the work".
"I told them to give me the job and I will prove to them that I can do it. I started working with two other men who were not pleased with me coming into their space. They told me that when they were finished with me I would lose weight and give up the job. I told them that I was going to work hard and do my job well. That has been eight years now and I am still working there."
Campbell and Abrahams work five days per week, Tuesdays to Saturdays, starting as early as 4:00 am up to between 3:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
The work takes them anywhere from downtown to upper St Andrew, and even St Catherine, with every day coming with its own unique set of experiences.
Campbell related one of the most memorable experiences she has had during her career, an experience that could have cut her life short.
She said she was working on Hagley Park Road one day, when while directing the truck off a premises and onto the main road, the driver of an oncoming vehicle refused to stop and she was hit. She woke up in the Kingston Public Hospital and today still feels occasional pains in her right leg from the accident.
Another disturbing episode involved her finding a newborn baby in a dumpster in Barbican. The baby was in a black plastic bag amongst the garbage, and started crying when the workers came. They rescued the baby and he was taken to a place of safety. Campbell said one of her greatest wishes would be to see the child again.
There were good days too.
One day, with no money for lunch and starving, Campbell said she and Abrahams were on the truck working when a woman just drove up, called out to them, and gave them $1,000. She said this was her miracle for the day, as they had nothing to eat.
Campbell, a mother of seven, says she loves her job. If she could relive her life, she sees herself in the same profession, one that allows her to be "superwoman".
"Women, get out there in the working world and work hard at being independent," she charged. "Women should not depend on men, Government and other people to help them, they should try on their own too."
SAVON Abrahams had tried for ages to get a job in a traditional female industry without success. She then turned to the male- dominated fields, specifically the construction industry, but even that venture failed.
It was a stroke of fate, a little voice in her head, that encouraged her to go to Premier Waste Management to seek employment. She has been there for the past 18 months.
"I stopped by the office and asked the secretary for a job to do anything that she had to offer. She said that there was no vacancy, but she could give me one day's work on a weekly basis on the truck. I started immediately and this went from one day to two days per week. Before long, based on my performance, she offered me a full-time job on the truck, and I have been enjoying my job since then," Abrahams said.
"I work alongside Marcia as the only two women and with a male driver as a team, we start working at the same time and share the same days off. This job has been very challenging but at the end of the day I am an independent woman working my honest bread to support my family."
She said one of her most unforgettable experiences happened on a Saturday morning when, while working on the truck, a car got out of control and crashed into the truck.
"I only received a small cut on my hand, but the shock I received from just being on the spot has affected me mentally and the memories have lingered in my thoughts daily since that day," she said.
Her job, she says, takes guts, and she has no regrets about her chosen field.
"We do a tough job, it takes a lot of guts to do it. We encounter a lot daily, we have to be strong and very alert while doing our duty. I am proud of my job. I am independent, and I don't have to depend on a man. Anything they can do to survive we can do it too."
And without hesitation, Premier Waste Management's Marketing Director Tommy Wright heaped praises on both women.
"They are punctual; they stick to their schedule, and are always going the extra mile to please our customers," he said.
He added that quite often clients give them rewards just to show their appreciation, and they have surpassed the men during the execution of their duties.
He said both women are very committed to the company in their capacity as maintenance workers.