A reader writes:
For five years I directed the BBC’s top hidden camera show. One of our secrets to avoiding detection was to disguise our production stuff with sanitation outfits/men working coveralls. As Nagle points out in your post, it wasn’t the case that the people we pranked saw our production stuff yet ignored them because they were “common”. I’d argue they literally didn’t see them – the brain filtered them out before their existence reached the level of human awareness.
I worked on a production here in Austin that addressed this problem a couple years ago. Andy Garrison made a film about it, Trash Dance, and it’s won several awards at festivals and is about to be broadly released. The effect of the project was immense. People suddenly started asking their trash people their names, waving to the trucks and appreciating all the hard work they do to keep the city looking good. It was such a coup for Solid Waste Services, they asked us to do it again as a repeat performance, and it was even more successful the second time.
For a great Australian movie on the subject, see Kenny.