As many across the country “stay at home” in an effort to flatten the Coronavirus curve, a whole collection of essential workers (some who happen to be renters) are making certain critical functions in our communities are not interrupted.
Aaron Meier is one of those everyday heroes. He’s a sanitation worker in San Francisco who starts his workday at 3am. By the end of a single shift, he’s emptied about 800 trashcans.
About a week ago, as this worldwide public health crisis was just sinking in for many, he sent out these messages to the Twitter Universe.
His Tweets captivated the hearts of many and caught the attention of several media outlets. On Good Morning America, he explained why he’s so committed to his work, especially now.
“I have a route to do. If it doesn’t get done other people couldn’t get their jobs done because there would be garbage in the way. And, it started to feel more important for me to do my job. Like I need to take care of the people of my city.”
In an interview with ABC, he delved into what motivates him to keep on keepin’ on right now.
“Take care of the people of my city, and I’m doing it for them, doing it for my family, and I’m doing it for my dad who is in an elderly home, and the garbage there needed to get moved out of the way so that the people there can take care of him.”
Despite the palpable fear and worry on the streets he serves, Aaron maintains his positive outlook.
“Sun is starting to come up. It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.”
Our Conversation with Aaron (who happens to also be a renter)
At Dwellsy, we too were touched by Aaron’s authenticity and generosity of heart, so we sought him out and learned more about him. We were able to speak with him on the phone while he was on a break and it was an absolute pleasure! He’s genuine, humble, so very gracious, and a renter too.
Here were our questions, and his paraphrased responses.
Q: You’ve got 25.7K followers on Twitter. How did that happen?
A: I’ve been on Twitter for about 2 years. I started by writing jokes, mostly dad jokes, and some observational humor about married life, and it turns out there’s a whole community that’s called Funny Twitter. I became a part of that community and some in there helped share my Tweets. Then I had my first viral Tweet that got me 10K over a single weekend. After the Good Morning America show, I got a whole bunch more.
Q: Yeah, and about that Good Morning America show, what an experience. Did they send out a crew? It must have been fun!
A: Actually, there wasn’t any crew. Most of the footage was shot on my phone and I texted it to them. When the network in New York reached out, I knew I had to tell my employers, so I had to out myself in regards to Twitter. The head of media relations at Recology, my workplace, thought it was pretty cool and helped me get some of the other footage because they wanted shots of me and the whole truck. My work was really supportive.
Q: Your Twitter handle is @JustMeTurtle. Do you have turtles?
A: [Laughter] When I was in my early 20s, I had some buddies that I partied and hung out with, they nicknamed me turtle. Not really sure why, but it stuck. I have had a couple of turtles as pets over the years, but none right now.
Q: Are you a native to San Francisco?
A: I grew up in Mountain View. My dad lived there up until last year but has now moved to an elderly community in Campbell. I can’t see him right now because they’re locked down, but I am able to talk to him on the phone. My sister went to the grounds to visit. The staff brought out all the residents on the lawn and they were able to wave and say hi through a gate. I’m glad he’s in there though because he’s safe. If he were living alone, I’d be really worried about him.
Q: How did you get started in the Sanitation Industry?
A: When I was young, my mom worked in the office at our local garbage company in Mountain View. I hung around the yard a lot and got to know the garbage men. I kind of grew up with it, but didn’t settle into it until my late 30s. I was working at BMW as a parts guy when we had our son. Health insurance was really expensive and we were trying to figure out a more long term plan. My mom encouraged me to get my commercial driver’s license. I went to truck driving school, and here I am.
Q: Where do you call home? Do you rent, or own it?
A: I’m a renter. We’re in a single family rental in the San Jose / Los Gatos area. We actually just moved this past January. My son has an autoimmune disorder and was experiencing a lot of allergy related issues in our last home due to the wall to wall carpet. This one has hard wood floors and it’s really helping.
Q: Tell me more about how your family is staying safe in regards to Coronavirus?
A: It’s definitely a concern. I assume that I’m being exposed to the virus in some way or another through my work. I’m super careful when I get home. I put my clothes in a garbage bag in the garage until I can do a load of laundry and then make a b-line to a super hot shower. My wife and I make sure we sanitize the house. She is an Amazon shopper at Whole Foods. When we moved to our new home, we knew we needed more income because the rent was higher. We’re just being really careful.
Q: How are you and your family passing the time when it comes to “staying at home?”
A: Well, for now it’s not much different because we’re both working. But I’m off work next, so it will be my first time experience the “quarantine life.” We do walk the dog more these days, she’s an 8 year old golden lab named Gidget. She’s been going a bit stir crazy, maybe because she feels our anxiety.
Thank you for risking your health and safety on a daily basis so that we are able to “stay at home” in homes not overtaken by trash. Thank you for shining your light into our world via your inspiring Twitter messages. You make this world beautiful!
From one renter to another, you are appreciated,
One-third of Americans are renters. Out of 330 million, that’s 110 million. This post illuminated the greatness of just one renter.
Readers, during these times when headlines are filled with startling statistics, we want to amplify the contributions of renters in America who are coming together to support each other, neighborhoods, and our communities. Please reach out to me with stories of hope, inspiration, and generosity that also showcase a renter.