The Five Families of Feces

Charles W. Howard is the porta-potty king of New York City. The seat of his vast empire is Broad Channel, Queens; from this windswept rock in Jamaica Bay, you can see the lights of Manhattan twinkling across the water. Early every morning, while the city sleeps, dozens of trucks — tagged with WE’RE #1 AT PICKING UP #2 decals — snake through the five boroughs to clean his 18,000 toilets. The company boasts more than $35 million in annual revenue, thanks in part to “salesgirls” who head out each day in the company’s signature Volkswagen Beetles to poach contracts from competitors who are too shy to sell with sex. Charlie himself arrives at work only around midday in a black Cadillac Escalade. Young female dispatchers and clerks cry “Charlie! Charlie!”

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