The long bitterly cold period that lasted over the holidays has finally broken. In a day or so we will go back to the usual grumbling about shovelling the steps and dark days. We will forget the anxiety over the possibility of frozen pipes that had our taps trickling and our kitchen cupboard doors left open. We will forget the little pang of visceral fear that struck as we dug out a car. ” I could die out here” . We will forget the dismal conviction that our battery needed a boost and the disbelief at hearing a tape on the CAA call response that informed subscribers that ” Due to an overload of calls………” No rescue for you, darling.
One thing I will not soon forget however, is the sight of garbage collectors collecting post Christmas feast rubbish on a dark evening serenaded by a howling wind. I was stuck behind the truck as it inched its way down the narrow street, clogged with snow and cars parked every which way. Unusually, the driver got out from time to time and helped. It took a long time to creep down the street. There was no impatience from any driver behind the garbage truck. Yes, the workers get ” good money”. Still, the physical stamina, the resistance, the constant exposure to the elements make for hero status for these workers, in my mind. Is it better in summer with the heat and stench of rotting food and the effort needed to haul and throw heavy bags and bins?
I have other heros, of course. Firemen, policemen, teachers, politicians, priests ( catch the humour when you can folks!) are all in positions to perform honorable deeds. The difference between them and my grimy sweaty, swearing heros is that mine have no opportunity for corruption. They have a hard job and they do it or they are fired. The difference between a street lined with garbage and a clean street is easy to see. No ambivalence, no moral grey zone, no slacking the pace.
Next time you’re stuck behind a garbage truck, don’t toot the horn . See if you have a spare bill to slip the driver at the intersection just so the crew can warm up with a well deserved coffee. It feels good to show appreciation and to see an amazed garbage collector’s face.