The Sanitation Worker Closet

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Tim Heffernan sits down with Robin Nagle, whose book Picking Up describes her time in the NYC department of sanitation:

Central among Nagle’s themes is the paradox—she would call it the injustice—of sanitation work. It is absolutely vital to any modern society. It is also largely invisible. …

Nagle discovered the job’s invisibility during a parade, as she warned sandal-clad spectators to move out of the way of her broom’s coarse bristles. Nobody heard her. “It’s not that they were ignoring me,” she writes. “I was never part of their awareness.” That attitude goes along with the perception that the work is demeaning. Even san men themselves aren’t immune to the idea. Nagle recalls trying to convince a coworker that his work was important: “‘Aw, bullshit,’ he’d say, dismissing me with a wave of his hand. Even after decades on the job, he still hasn’t told the neighbors what he does for a living. His wife is happier that way.”

(Above scene from “The Mighty Boosh“)