Sleep- Walking

A somnolent beach maintenance crew picks up as many Z's as it does bags of trash

12:03 p.m.: Louis wakes up Pat and suggests they move under the boardwalk to allow the barbecuers use of the pavilion. Pat is groggy and ticked off. The two men depart the pavilion and join their comrades under the boardwalk. Pat begins berating Louis for waking him up. ("Do I wake you up when you're sleeping? Hell, no! I respect a man when he's dreamin'!")

12:09 p.m.: Frank and the fifth crew member reappear in the dump truck. After Frank tops off the radiator with water from the public faucet, the five men clamber aboard. The radio is locked on gospel music. The truck heads north along the beach.

1:15 p.m.: After cruising up and down the beach for more than an hour, stopping occasionally to capture a fugitive Perrier bottle or a Bud can, the crew parks on the sand at 21st Street and takes up a position at the end of the boardwalk. Louis and another laborer lie down on a handy bench. Pat slouches against a public telephone.

1:30 p.m.: A second dump truck pulls up, and the group is joined by several other maintenance workers. The beach itself is crowded now, and everyone but Louis agrees that early afternoon is prime time for girl watching. Louis appears to be fast asleep.

2:07 p.m.: Another exhausting day is drawing to a close. The crew saddles up, three riding in the back of the truck, two in the cab. They barrel north along the beach.

2:25 p.m. The crew arrives at an equipment yard at North Shore State Recreation Area near 79th Street and Collins Avenue. They park the truck and bid one another farewell.

Like many innovators, the men of dump truck #19077 are not always appreciated or understood. When New Times described their contributions to a park department official, the reaction was unequivocally negative.

But spokesperson Beatriz Portela also points out that the amount of trash on the beach varies depending on the day -- Monday mornings, for example, find the sand littered with tons of refuse. She seems to take exception, however, to the crew's innovative time-management and stress-reduction techniques.

"If what you're telling me is true, it's totally unacceptable," Portela says. "We will definitely look into it. If there are too many people on the crew and not enough trash to pick up, then there's no reason to have them there. It would be a waste of taxpayers' money.

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