The junkman rocks

At Work

A rock musician puts food on table by taking discarded goods to the dump

June 06, 2007|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Kent Warren

Junk hauler, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Baltimore

Salary --$17,000

Age --24

Years on the job --Two

How he got started --Needing a job to move out of a crowded apartment, he found his position via an online employment listing site.

Typical day --He usually works 12-hour days on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, picking up extra work when it's available. His job is to collect anything except chemicals or hazardous waste, and haul it to the dump. This includes both residential and commercial work. The area includes all of Baltimore City and Howard County, as well as most of Baltimore County.

Warren works on a two-man crew that can run as many as seven jobs in one day depending on what's involved. After the hauling is complete, he will then work for about 20 minutes marketing the company by either passing out fliers or donning a blue wig and standing on a street corner with a 1-800-GOT-JUNK? banner.

Night job --The schedule works well for Warren, who is the bassist for the local rock group Fools & Horses, which he said plays three to five nights a week. He clears about $6,000 annually as a musician. He hopes one day that the music becomes a full-time job.

Starbucks Entertainment recently selected the band's song "The Therapy" as a track on its CD Off the Clock Vol. 1: New Music from Up & Coming Starbucks Artists.

Typical load --Estimates for hauling are based on volume. The average job includes a three-eighths of a truck load, which costs about $322. The truck holds 15 cubic yards, or about four full-size pickup truck loads.

One person's junk is another's treasure --"I furnished my entire living room when I first started working here," Warren said. "I took a sectional couch in great shape. People throw away new and old stuff." Warren says he doesn't need any more furniture, but on occasion will take a lamp or piece of art.

Worst day on the job --The first week on the job, Warren was called on to clean out a basement. It turned out the family that had lived there threw whatever they didn't want into the basement. It flooded and his job was to clean it out for a contractor. "It was wet, muggy and moldy," Warren said.

Safety equipment --Hats, masks and gloves are provided.

Extra money --Warren said he often receives $10 to $20 in tips, depending on the size of the job. His biggest tip was $50. Warren also has an opportunity to make a commission based on various goals accomplished daily. That commission can be as much as $15 an hour in addition to his regular salary.

Lifting technique --At 5 feet 10 inches and 130 pounds, Warren is proud of how much he can lift. "I told my boss at my interview, my legs are really strong. It's a matter of technique. I always lift with my knees."

Work out --"They say to work out three times a day and that's definitely what I'm doing."

The good --"The flexibility."

The bad --"Not getting to remove someone's junk." When someone cancels it's a missed opportunity for Warren, who relies partially on tips and commission, to earn a living.

The critters --He's seen it all - spiders, bees, rats and mice. One job sticks out. He and a co-worker were clearing construction debris from a backyard in Baltimore. "I lifted up a bag and 10 huge ... rats came out. We were jumping like little girls."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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