It long ago occurred to me, when I was living in D.C., that the trashmen and the garbagemen were some of the most important citizens living in that city. In fact, where day-to-day life was concerned, they were far more essential than all those bigtime members of the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches that were regularly upchucked on the Nation’s Capital by all the other states of the Union. Without those men who picked up your trash and garbage and took it somewhere every week, everybody would’ve been in a terrible mess. Yet I knew that I was in the tiniest of minorities in thinking that way, and actually those men were generally seen as being on the very bottom rung of things, and were probably paid as such.
Another thing about this that’s hard to understand is the question of why consumption, especially of food, is held in such reverence, while disposing of those same substances after they’ve been digested is viewed with such disdain. Personally I don’t like to watch people eating or to have them see me eating, anymore than I would like sharing the toilet room with others. I have little use for restaurants, and that started when, while growing up in the capital of the country, I was not allowed to go into any of the downtown restaurants because of Jim Crow. But my dislike of those establishments also comes from wondering how people, including my wife, can be so pleased with sitting and eating in them in plain sight of other people doing the same.
Eliminating what’s left of your food is no less important than eating it, so, if restaurants are such a big deal, for a long time I’ve wondered why people don’t gather in fancy places to defecate together as well. I don’t know of any society that has actually tried that, but the idea seems entirely logical to me.
In Virginia, I’ve become semi my own garbage and trash collector. That is, I dispose of garbage by putting it in compost piles at home. But I have to take the trash to a place that used to be the county landfill, but now they ship it to another rural area in the eastern part of the state. You dump your trash on the slimy, smelly concrete of a huge shed, and they then scoop it up with front end loaders and dump it into big trucks for transport..
The last couple of times I’ve been there, however, it seems changes of some kind are afoot.. The first time the shed had been cleaned up, and there were about 30 people in there standing around with clipboards. I couldn’t tell what they were up to, and all I could think of was that they were putting in bids of some sort or that they had been asked to supply ideas on something.
Then when I went there today, the shed was even cleaner and emptier and it was blocked off, and I had to unload my trash in a big bin nearby.
My wife tells me that meanwhile someone wants to get permission to bring in sludge from New Jersey to another place just a few miles from us as the crow flies. One of her coworkers said that the local newspaper had one article about bringing tourism to the county and another about bringing sludge to the county, and the two didn't seem to go together.
Maybe it is only in rarefied activities like surgery or playing the piano that one hand has to have a perfect idea of what the other is doing. But the main principle of this has to be that if you've been shipping your refuse to some other place, you've put yourself in the position of not being able to jump too indignant when you're asked to receive some in return, whether it be plastic party spoons or spent nuclear fuel rods.
In these days of humans overwhelming the Earth, "refuse" as a noun has lost its former meaning and now increasingly it refers to unwanted stuff that can't be refused.