Man vs. Machine: Surviving Compaction In A Garbage Truck

In a classic story of man versus machine that took place right in my own home town, a homeless man in Ann Arbor, Michigan survived compaction in a garbage truck. Miraculously, the man escaped without serious injury.

Apparently, he had fallen asleep in a small Dumpster container behind the Red Hawk Bar and Grill on State Street. The container was picked up high above the truck, and the contents - including the homeless man - were dumped inside. When asked how the man survived, firefighter Scott Robertson, who helped rescue the man, stated:

"I don't know. Just being in the dumpster and being dumped would have been a heck of a ride, let alone being compacted.

Bryan Weinert, director of the city's Solid Waste Management department, said that the compaction process involves a large dull steel blade that pushes the waste against the wall of the truck to maximize space. He said that how tightly the material is compacted depends on how hard the driver pushes the compacting button and the amount and type of trash in the truck. Weinert said that a person could be protected by trash that is hard to compact.

Science fiction fans of course recall that this is exactly what helped Luke, Leia, Chewbacca and Han survive being compacted in the detention-level garbage mashers until C3PO and R2 could shut them down in the original Star Wars.


(Luke and Leia in the Death Star garbage masher)

Science fiction has many stories of man versus machine; not all of them turn out in favor of man. For movies, try Tron, Lawnmower Man, Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Books like Against Infinity, Neuromancer also qualify.

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