By James Steinbauer
In Oxford, the break of day is trumpeted not by a rooster’s crow, but by the roar of a half dozen Rumpke garbage and recycling trucks rumbling down the red bricks, washing away the evidence of what was yet another night of citywide partying.
It’s 6 a.m. on a Friday and at no other time does Oxford sound and smell more like a crowded metropolitan area than it does now. The stench of garbage — a mixture of stale beer, stinking Skyline chili and bodily fluids — permeates the air surrounding Oxford’s now quiet bars and restaurants.
Running amid the scurry of garbage trucks, a seemingly endless conveyor belt of workers transport foodstuffs from semi trucks parked up and down High Street. If a finance professor wanted to demonstrate input/output economics at work, then Oxford in the a.m. would be a good place to start.
A Sunrise in Uptown: Timelapse
Less than four hours after last call, the bars and restaurants are in an arms race, stockpiling food and alcohol for the night ahead.
At 7:30 a.m., Ohio Eagle Distribution employee Jeff Rice has transported nearly two-dozen trolley loads of beer into Brick Street and still hasn’t touched the kegs.
“This is my biggest stop,” Rice says, his eyes widening in near-admiration. “By the time I leave, the fridge is full from floor to ceiling. [Kegs] are stacked three high!”
On any given week, Rice will transport 175 to 225 cases and more than 65 kegs of beer. And that’s only counting Anheuser-Busch brand.
Among the bustle of garbage trucks and food distributors, several silent runaways flee the scene. Whether shame is behind it or not, some of the earliest risers are girls stealing away from their boyfriends, hook-ups or one-night-stands. Against the backdrop of a brightening horizon, the fleeting silhouettes of their stilettos and tousled hair move away from apartment buildings toward dorm rooms and houses.
At 8 a.m., the sun now in the sky, some opt for a more covert means of transportation.
“I’ve been doing this for a year and a half now, and it’s the same every morning,” says James Brooks, Oxford Taxi driver. “I get about eight or 10 girls who stay out late and need to get home and take a shower before classes start. Of course they all claim they were staying with their brother or girlfriends.”
James Brooks, Cab driver for Oxford Taxi
At 8:30 a.m., the stench is gone, carried away by garbage trucks and the wind, but the debris and shrapnel left from Thursday night’s assault on the bars is still present. Oxford municipal workers are walking up and down the sidewalks sweeping cigarette butts, uneaten bagels and used cups and napkins into waste bags.
Gail Paveza, the manager at Follett’s Bookstore, is sweeping the storefront herself.
“You have to keep your business good-looking and welcoming for customers,” she says.
Paveza said that the dirtiest day used to be Friday and weekend mornings, but with the advent of ’90s and country night at Brick Street, Wednesday and Thursday mornings are just as bad.
“A lot of [wristbands] this morning,” she says. “I guess there just aren’t enough trash cans. But I’ll even see [wristbands] on the ground next to trash cans. Maybe they just aren’t big enough.”
Dale Plank, Starbucks coffee master
At around 9 a.m., a rusting, navy blue pickup truck delivers the first bass blare, marking the transition from a small town morning to a college town day. The students are coming.
Among Oxford’s coffee shops, the arms preparation ended long ago — the local coffee clutches began before the delivery trucks even left the breweries.
“From about 5:30 to 6, it’s just a handful of regulars, but by 10, it’s out the door with students,” says Dale Plank, Starbucks’ “Coffee Master.”
Plank, a retired Talawanda teacher, was always among the first Starbucks customers in the morning. He has since been the first face many Miami University students see every morning.
Across the street at Kofenya, university retirees
Chuck Schuler, Charlie Watson and Mike McVey are having their morning coffee with a side of peace and quiet and crossword puzzles in pen.
“We’ve only been having coffee together for about 30 years,” Schuler says.“We wouldn’t come up here in the afternoon,” Watson added. “There are people who are better in the afternoon and better in the morning. Us … well, we don’t see any use in wasting good daylight.”