:: What You Don’t Know by Looking at Them ::
They are family.
They love fast and just want a fair shake.
They chose to take the test. They passed the test. They showed up.
They keep showing up.
They are the oldest green-collared profession.
They see the housing market change, the effect of slumlords and fancy real estate developers.
They feel the Recession happening in throwaway Ikea furniture and forced evictions.
They hate the rain and cold. The rain’s the worst, though.
They know what they do is important.
They recognize you on the street and never expect you to recognize them back.
They have a mercurial wit.
They have problems that they’re working on.
They have problems that they’ve gotten through.
They have this job that helps them to keep their lives together.
They have more racial and off-color jokes than Richard Pryor and Bob Saget put together.
They have psychology degrees.
They have been to art school.
They are in school now.
They’re thinking about their retirement now.
They are practicing their bag pipes now.
They have not always gotten their due.
They have not always been lucky or made the best choices.
They have fathers and grandfathers who have seen worse, less respected days at the job.
They have books they’ve written and published.
They have plays they’ve written and produced.
They have bands they play in and Harleys they ride through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
They have photos in their phones of the collection truck, locker room pranks, Derek Jeter and their children.
They show up at the funeral for a coworker who lost a spouse.
They have wives and girlfriends they’d do anything for.
They have sons and daughters that they wish they were better parents for.
They have friends at work to remind them why they do what they do.
They have people that give them hell for not being a doctor, lawyer or banker.
They have kids that wanted nothing more than to ride in the truck.
They have regret for lives lived outside the work.
They have kids, dogs and old men in the neighborhood that look forward to their arrival the same time every Monday morning.
They have mothers that drive them nuts.
They have sick wives that they take to the doctor all the time.
They have better halves.
They lost too many fellow Sanitation Workers to stupid accidents on the route. A name on a building will never be enough, but they’ll take it. And they’ll remember.
They have seen combat days in all the wars in recent memory.
They took this job because they got their girlfriend pregnant.
They took this job because some guy left when they said they were pregnant.
They miss the New York before Giuliani. Life was more fun, and you wouldn’t get arrested for hot-wiring a street lamp for a dance party. Sure, it’s safer, but it’s a little sterile. Yep, that’s right – they miss a dirtier New York.
They hit on my friends now, because my friends are no longer looking away when they pass a Sanitation Worker on the way to the train.
They hate bureaucracy but believe in the union.
They just want to keep moving and then do nothing but sit on the beach or on the porch in the sun.
They are the brawny receptacles of New York’s stories and streets.
In their minds are our histories and secrets.
In their muscles, the weight of our lives destroyed, discarded and discontinued.
In their hearts, quiet, simple hope.
They are the caretakers of all we let go.
And they’re not perfect.
But their hearts and minds are full and passionate.
And THEY ARE STRONG.
::: ::: :::
Responses (16) to “:: What You Don’t Know by Looking at Them ::”