One of my duties here on the drawbridge is to keep the sidewalks and bike lanes clean. I used to do this with a hand broom. It would take several hours and I’d come away each time covered in sweat and with an angry set of blisters.

But it needs to be done, because you don’t want debris falling down into the machinery below, causing repairs at taxpayer expense. Also, garbage accumulates moisture, and has the potential to freeze, thus making the bridge dangerous for anyone crossing it. Safety first.

You’d be amazed at how much crap winds up on a drawbridge. Don’t even get me started about cigarette butts. I’ve ranted about them before. Why smokers think that throwing them on the ground makes them magically disappear is beyond me. Someone has to deal with them. And in this case, it’s me. It’s disgusting.

We also get a lot of leaves and sand, and I’ve found all sorts of garbage, car parts, and all manner of organic hazardous material which I won’t go into detail about for your sake. It’s not unusual to find the contents of stolen wallets, the occasional suspicious package, and various items of clothing. Bridges seem to be society’s dumping ground.

After about my 20th set of blisters, I suggested that the City of Seattle provide us with leaf blowers. That way we could at least blow all the stuff into a pile and then bag it. But I insisted it be the rechargeable battery type of blower, not the gas type. I do care about the environment. I was thrilled (and frankly shocked) when my request was granted. Now I can do a much better job on the bike lanes in about 30 minutes.

So, the other day I was out there with the leaf blower, taking pride in the quality of my work, and smiling to myself for getting the city’s cooperation against all odds, when a bicycle zoomed past. That’s not unusual, of course. But this rider gave me one of those disapproving head shakes that a tiny, yet extremely annoying minority of Seattleites seem to have honed to a razor-sharp edge. As he passed, he said, “Wasteful!” and then continued on, depriving me of the opportunity to discuss his pompous, baseless judgment with him.

But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. The guy was riding a bike worth at least 500 dollars. How wasteful is that, in a city with a homeless crisis? His shoes were leather. Cows are one of the most environmentally destructive animals on the planet. He was carrying a Starbucks coffee. It takes 37 gallons of water to produce one cup of coffee. I’m quite sure his computer uses much more electricity than the occasional use of my leaf blower does. And what do you want to bet that his privileged butt replaces his iPhone every time a new model comes out, whether he needs to or not?

Gimme a break. Yes, a leaf blower is wasteful, but I weighed the alternatives, and I took the situation seriously. I’m trying. None of us is perfect. I’m doing the best I can.

You know what I’m not doing? Riding around on my $500 bike, passing judgment without having all the facts, or giving people the opportunity to provide them. Arrogant coward.

End of rant.

university bridge sidewalk level

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Least Favorite

I just finished doing the least glamorous, most disgusting part of my job. I spent an hour getting cigarette butts off the sidewalks and bike lanes of my bridge. So many thoughts go through my head while I do this.

Smoking is a disgusting habit, compounded by the fact that these butt-throwers clearly have no civic pride or sense of personal responsibility. And if you’re health conscious enough to jog or bike, what the heck are you doing smoking in the first place? When it crosses my mind that I’m interacting with things that have been in the mouths of about a hundred total strangers, and surely some portion of them have a communicable disease, I start to dry heave.

When that happens, I have to force myself to put a positive spin on things, so as not to retch all over the sidewalk and then have to clean that up. So what am I learning by doing my least favorite part of the job? What is this bringing into my life?

  • It’s good exercise.
  • It shows me the type of person/pig that I don’t ever want to be.
  • It allows me to be out in the sunshine.
  • Inevitably one person walking by every time I do this takes the time to thank me.
  • It reminds me that the rest of my job is actually pretty freakin’ fantastic.
  • It gives me a stronger sense of who I am, who I want to be, what I’m capable of, what I like and don’t like and why.
  • It provides me with an idea for a blog entry.
  • It feels sooooo good when I’m done.

I suggest to you that your least favorite things shouldn’t be avoided. Rather, examine them closely. Deal with them with perspective and an open mind for the lessons that they provide. Gifts can come from the most unexpected places. I’m grateful for every gift that comes my way.