Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Bless the ones who haul the trash

Trash, Trash pick up, Wauwatosa, Jobs, Workers

Yesterday was the last day of curbside yard waste pick-up, and I had a lot. After dragging the allowed five containers to the road, uncounted bags of walnuts remained, including one of those giant approved paper bags, the kind that deteriorates in the landfill. Those I just left in the driveway to wrangle when I got home from work.

The big bag joined the rest of the yard pickup, thanks to the hard work and generosity of the haulers, willing to bend a rule. It only took a few seconds, after all.

These folks, most of them men, do not slack. They nearly jog from house to house (and occasionally point out ways I might align my containers to allow them to work even faster).

So I was surprised to read about  the proposal for more automated hauling and one-man trucks. Even with a strong robotic arm lifting and dumping containers, I can imagine a hundred ways two people could facilitate the process. Yard work certainly goes more than twice as fast with four human arms and two brains involved.

Two of the "perks"-- aka "services we already have"-- that might be lost in the process include garage pick-up for an additional fee and doubling up collections after holidays. With an aging and traveling population, the demand for garage pick-up is likely to increase, and again, people pay extra for this service.

And Tosa being a tidy sort of place, we won't be happy with the Christmas overflow.

In addition to getting more work done with a little help from your friends and having a little more flexibility to adapt to changes that pop up, it's just better to work with other people. Most of us prefer it to extended isolation.

Not a popular statement, I know. We're no longer supposed to talk about making jobs better for workers, though we can talk ourselves bluefaced about making workers better for jobs that may or may not exist.

I think about a job a former employer had trouble filling. It was about 99% photocopying. "Who'd want to do that 38 hours a week?" I wondered aloud.  The 38 hours avoided having to give said copyperson benefits, the one bait that might have persuaded someone to bite the hook.

That job never did get filled. It emerged later as part of a different job that included some variety and called for more intellectual engagement. Most people take pride in the work they do and are eager to bring all their abilities to a job. A mindless job makes most people crazy.

Is trash collection a mindless job? I don't think so. There are new challenges every day, and for those who can't sit behind desks, moving through the world outside is a blessing. Most days.

If I were queen of the world, no one would be allowed to create jobs they would never be willing to do themselves. We wouldn't eliminate safe-enough jobs for people and give them to machines until everyone had a safe-enough job. And we'd recognize that real human beings can solve problems and make decisions that robotic arms can't.

Thanks for the good, hard, sometimes unpleasant work you do so well, guys. May your jobs be preserved, and may you do as well when you are solitary assistants to the Machine.

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