In a recent Tedtalks video Robin Nagle, a trash anthropologist, speaks about the Department of Sanitation. The Department of Sanitation, or more commonly referred to as trash men, are the people who clean-up after us. Miss Nagle wanted to learn more about this elite group, so she started out going on the same routes wight the trash men. Later on in her research, she still wanted to know more; as a step even further into the observational learning she joined the Department of Sanitation.
She made several discoveries during her research: First the job is very dangerous, especially in the city. Cars are consistently trying to get around the garbage truck so that people may continue on with their day. Moreover the trash itself can be harmful to anyone near and around it constantly. Second the flow of trash is constant. After we eat an apple and we throw it away, we forget about it; many of us don’t realize that it is someones job to retrieve that waste and remove it. Finally, she learns about the stigma; “Put on the uniform,” she says, “and you become invisible until someone is upset with you for whatever reason.”
Both Miss Nagle and myself find the stigma ironic; It’s sad to think that those who put their lives at risk every day to clean up after us for the good of the public are so shamefully treated and only seen when their actions affect us directly. So the next time you see a public worker, a grounds keeper, or cleaning maid smile and thank them; they deserve it.