Sanitation Competition
Joanne Faries

Like a fireman whoís an arsonist, Iím a sanitation engineer who disperses trash -paper, plastic, cigarette butts. I, dressed in black, drop waste on the Chinese Garden paths, drape tattered cloth strips on statues, and strew food scraps on benches. Embracing solitude and night air, I dream of a raise. † †††††††††††

Then each morning, I don my pressed khaki uniform. A blue scarf (Park Sanitation Code color) ties at my neck in a jaunty angle. I flick dust specks from my black shoes and proceed outdoors armed with bags and a puncture stick to clean up my precious garden. Bag volume is proof of my diligence. † †††††††††††

Lapel pinned ribbons of merit are designed to strengthen the work ethic of the Bubblegum Brigade. Iím aware of the jokes, and no, we arenít issued a special scraper. My shirt displays rows of color and I earn awards for attention to duty. †

Yet, I cannot hold my own against Ronnie Lee, multi-year winner of Singaporeís Park Employee Award. † †††††††††††

On a sultry vacation day I visited Ronnieís Marina City Park. Suspicious, I recognized my own actions echoed in his movements. He sensed all refuse spots, had a skimmer ready at the two-tier pond and fountain. I was in competition with a man who had more trash. Obviously he had help at night putting out waste. There was no other way to explain the amount of bags piled high on the trash cart. †

I slumped on a pristine park bench and, disheartened, questioned my career choice. Chinese Garden had its followers, but Marina City Park was the peopleís favorite. Concerts, ceremonies, and fairs drew thousands here as a showcase venue. Perhaps I needed to swallow my pride and ask for a transfer to Marina. I could work on Ronnieís team and demonstrate my allegiance to the park system.† †

Between the two of us, our cleaning endeavors could bring higher honor, not to mention enhance this gleaming park jewel in the heart of Singapore. The islandís reputation depended on people like Ronnie Lee and me, lowly workers dedicated to our field.

First published: May, 2008
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