Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Sanitation Engineer

Have you ever thought about your garbage person?  Have you ever wondered who they are and why they would chose a job that had them dealing with other peoples refuse every single day?  Aside from wanting any job with a cool truck when you were under the age of 7, have you ever really considered the job?  Or do your nasty unusables just disappear by magic?

What about the guys that put the circuits on your motherboard?  Or the people that stock the shelves in the back of the store.  What about all the little people that do all the little things that make society worth living in?  Do you ever think, what set of choices could have led them to do the things they do and why they do them, and whether or not anyone is ever truly thankful for the work that they do?  Or do you just assume all that stuff just sort of happens?
A short while back I was thinking on all of this.  I was particularly focused on our garbage collectors.  They do a decent job.  Sure everyone cusses them out when the lids of the cans go missing and we all grumble when the ever blowing wind gets trash in our yard, but really those aren't the garbage collectors fault.  The poor guys handles can after heavy can (we still do the old fashioned way, without the lift bar trucks), and no one ever says thank you.  Most of the time no one ever sees them.  They works crappy long hours dealing with smelly nasty stuff, and then get paid squat.  Yet, where would our society be without them?

Executives get cushy nice smelling offices.  They have people waiting on them and waiting for them.  Some of them make more money than they can realistically use, yet do they really work harder than the garbage person?  Is their position of that much importance?  Would society really be ground to a halt if they just decided they've had enough and stopped.  Many seem to think so, but is that the reality?  What makes that executive so much better for our society than a garbage person that we see the need to pay them so much more?

What would happen if we turned society upside down?  What if we paid workers based on how much we needed them for the continuation of a functional society rather than by how much rank they hold?  Of course we'd implode, that's a given.  There is no way a person can budget a proper wage for the services that we take for granted let alone the services that deserve the kind of compensation on that scale!  But still what if.  What if the most valued jobs were those that are the nastiest?  Totally necessary, but physically or mentally exhausting.  Would we all aspire to do those jobs?  Would the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge be abandoned because there is no longer the possibility of extensive financial reward?  Would you look the same way at custodians, service personnel, and garbage collectors again?  Would stuff still happen like magic to you?

If all things were equal people would be paid for the quality of their work, not based on whether they wear a suit or coveralls, but based on the fact that they are serving for the betterment of society in some way.  There is no practical way to do this however, because picking up garbage just doesn't have the income to pay better.  And it can't have the income to pay better.  It's like water, the price has to be held down to pay for the service or people would suffer from the lack of the service.  In our society we all need trash service, the same way we need access to clean water.  I'm not asking that we pay our trash collectors more, but that we think of what it is their work deserves.  We wouldn't be functioning if they weren't doing their job and being unappreciated for it.

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