KIRKWOOD, Mo. (KMOX) – It’s the story of sweet friendship that grew out of a smelly job.
“Hi Mr. Billy!”
Wearing his safety vest and hard hat, 4-year-old Johnny Tsacoumangos and his grandma Jan stand at the end of the driveway, watching for the recycling truck to stop at the curb.
Out hops driver Billy Fair.
“How you doin’? I like your hat and your vest man! You’re ready for work now! How you been?”
Every week, Billy can count on a special greeting.
“Definitely puts a smile on your face. Definitely. I know he’s here every Wednesday. I can depend on him waiting for me. So I’m looking for him, and he’s looking for me.”
Johnny’s been watching for the trucks since he was a toddler. It’s not just a fascination with the big machinery — he’s interested in the whole process.
Megan: “Where do they take the trash?”
Johnny: “To the landfill. And the yardwaste and recycling goes to the recycling plant.”
Billy: “And he’s so passionate about his recycling, which is a good thing.”
Mom Alison says it went beyond friendly waves the day Johnny drew Billy a picture of a recycling truck.
“You know to me, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but Billy really seemed touched by it. And then the next week when he came by, he showed Johnny a picture on his phone of the picture Johnny had made for him. He had it laminated and put it up on his locker. And he said, ‘Johnny! All the other guys are so jealous because you made me a picture!’ So that was what really started their friendship.”
And when Johnny turned 4, the Kirkwood Sanitation Department invited him to the office to celebrate.
“Johnny was just floored,” says Alison Tsacoumangos, “to have all of the garbage men sitting around singing Happy Birthday to him, it was such an awesome moment.”
It’s not just something Johnny thinks about on trash day – his playroom is full of toy trash and recycling trucks, and even tiny recycling bins.
“We do say to him, you know you might be an engineer one day that solves the world’s sanitation problems, and he says, ‘No, I’m gonna be a garbage man.'”
That’s exactly what Johnny thinks about when he sees those big trucks come down the street: “About picking up the trash when I’m going to be an adult.”