Coming clean on the fight against dirt
I'm dead or I'm dreaming - I'm not sure which - I clock on at work, enter that great reverberating depot hall in the sky, and there, irradiated by shimmering shafts of sunlight stands my wagon ready and waiting to go. St. Peter must have had it over the weekend - it's washed, emptied of rubbish, well supplied with diesel and litter bags and all my tools are where they should be. It stands alone, not jammed in by the usual queue of parked up and locked wagons - its too good to be true. I must be dreamimg.
Of course I ruddy well am! A tight aching knot clutches at my stomach as the clock radio behind my bed announces IT'S TIME FOR WORK! I part the curtains, outside it's pitch black and winter frost coats my parked car.
At work it's all those things that weren't in my dream and a few more - my front tyre's soft and there are eight parked bin wagons between me and the air hose! Needless to say they all belong to people who aren't in a hurry to be out on the job! I sit there, drumming my fingers on the wheel. On Monday, it's hard enough to get round my route without being late out into the bargain.
Things have changed a bit since the summer. People who retire aren't being replaced, so as well as sweeping Elland and West Vale I now have Sowerby Bridge added to my round, this being exchanged for the litter bins I used to empty at King Cross. But Sowerby Bridge is a much bigger place to sweep, so now it's a constant struggle to keep up.
Sowerby Bridge is a pedestrians nightmare. All day long the heavy traffic grinds relentlessly through and crossing the road demands both foresight and ingenuity. Nobody wants to stop for pedestrians - even when they're wearing a yellow coat with fluorescent strips and standing in the middle of a zebra crossing! Last week, having had a near miss from an old gimmer in a Lada who was going too fast to stop, insult was added to injury by the smart ass in the Sierra behind him, who purposely accelerated through while I was in the middle of the crossing. An elderly couple nearby offered to act as witnesses, but I was too shaken to get his number.
I do most of my work on foot. The endless traffic, plus the fact that I am no longer allowed to throw loose litter in the back of my wagon and have to bag everything up means that there is now no other way. Walking Sowerby Bridge end to end is a marathon. By the time I get to my wagon I am bathed with sweat and my feet and legs ache. On a cold, dark morning, trudging through the winter murk, I sometimes feel I am serving some kind of a prison sentence.
It's approaching Christmas, and already traces of the festive season - smashed bottles, party poppers etc. are becoming evident. I would dearly love to have a week off at Xmas with my kids - but in this job it's hopeless. Xmas Day, Boxing Day - that's it. To get any more time off you would have to book a year in advance.
Calderdale is preparing for the snow. Despite cutbacks, the grit boxes are in position and ready for action. The only trouble is when the snow does fall we won't be able to get to the road salt for the litter people have thrown into them. It might come as a surprise to some, but the letters 'GRIT' on plastic yellow bunkers do not stand for 'Get your Rubbish In There.' Christmas might mean 'peace and goodwill to all men' in some circles but for most people it means be as selfish and inconsiderate as possible.
A street sweeper sees the dirty backside of humanity all the time. Take the bottle and newspaper banks in Sowerby Bridge for example. On a Monday morning I find everything there - except newspapers and bottles. Easy chairs, bags of offal, garden refuse, office waste paper, rotting vegetables, polystyrene packaging - the list is endless. If curses work there must be a lot of traders in Sowerby Bridge and Elland suffering the agonies of voodoo! But this fly tipping makes no sense. Sowerby Bridge has it's own houshold waste site just down the road, where they can tip rubbish legally. Is it just that they get a buzz out of making a mess? It baffles me. Down the street British Telecom have been removing broken glass from a vandalised phone box window. Very sensible of them - only they've dumped all the glass in the adjacent litter bin, and the steel liner has no bottom! The bins too narrow for a shovel, so I have to remove the glass one handful at a time. Talk about inviting industrial injury! But folk couldn'tcare less, as long its someone elses problem.
In Elland it's more of the same. As usual the bottle and newspaper banks are full and the public (along with a few local traders) have been indulging their usual penchant for constructing high rise architectural creations with loose bottles and boxes of newspapers, which the weather soon blows around the town centre or turns to papier mache. None of this extraneous material gets recycled - if it's not in the skip provided it just goes to the landfill, which defeats the object. They might as well just put their newspapers and bottles in the dustbin.
A new high tech source of litter is now proliferating everywhere. It's called 'The Cash Point'. This amazing device enables the general public to withdraw cash at any time of the day and to get an on the spot report of their current financial status. It also reduces the need to actually employ real people and offer enhanced wages and overtime. But