Anyone who wants to learn how to be invisible should pick up a copy of Robin Nagle’s new book, Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City. The tale is an odyssey of pure trash as Nagle rides along with one of the 10,000 sanitation workers who pick up after 8.2 million New Yorkers. Like the postal services, these guardians of debris work with regularity through heat waves, snow storms and bombings. Nagle calls them “unmarked” elements of daily life because when these folks put on their uniforms — unlike police officers, firefighters, soldiers, or doctors — they become invisible.
Sociologists Wayne Brekhus agrees about their invisibility and thinks it comes from performing a job that is “unextraordinary” — a job so routine that unless it stops, it goes unnoticed. All a city resident notices about “The Invisibles” is that when he puts his garbage out at night, it magically disappears by morning. (“Taking out the trash,” excerpted article from Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City by Robin Nagle, The Week, pgs. 40-41, May 17, 2013).
To be honest, New York City isn’t so different from my neck of the woods. The name of my letter carrier is John. He has a wife and a new baby girl. All I know about the sanitation workers in my neighborhood is that my garbage has to be on the curb by 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.
I’m glad Nagle reminded me to feel grateful about those who perform so seamlessly and so invisibly a job I would hate to do. That’s why I’m sending out a big thank today to the sanitation workers of the world. I should thank Robin Nagle, too. I once wrote that there was a book written for every subject the human mind could imagine. He’s proved me right.
(Courtesy of www.silive.com)