Pushing a Broom

by Charles McGrath


Fifty years ago I started working for a company which is now called Verizon. It was supposed to be a summer job. But not unlike so many other things in life it became seamless.

I started by " pushing a broom".

The old cliché comes to mind "there is only one way to go and that's up. I feel that everyone should not be deprived of being poor at least once in their lifetime.

I also believe that everyone should experience the joy or lack of it in doing menial work.

While the steps in life should take one on an ascending climb, no steps should be skipped. We have many castes in our country all should be visited.

I remember a very nice man in Vailsburg who worked for the City. He was a street cleaner. Not the large motorized type.

It was a waste barrel on wheels complimented by a shovel and broom. He would push this contraption up and down South Orange Avenue. I think he was responsible from Stuyvesant Avenue up to Dover Street. He was a very industrious person. He was always attending his profession. He seemed to have enjoyed his work. While for some reason or other I never got to talk to him.

Looking back , I wish I had taken a couple of minutes out of my alleged busy schedule to converse with him. He was a lanky man in his late fifties and I think he was a special person. Every time I drove past him I always gave him a big wave. He would respond with a wave and a big smile. His eyes would return to the pavement and he continued " pushing a broom."

Most of us are cursed with big egos and I'm no exception. A little humility on our part wouldn't hurt any of us. As the old saying goes " have a piece of humble pie."

Humble pie has more meaning if you know what it is. Humble pie was made during the Middle Ages. The filling was the intestines of animals. Remember that this dessert goes with the serving of arrogance.

The next time you see someone doing a menial job don't let it go unnoticed. Go out of your way to say hello.

The next time your in a department store or supermarket take notice to the cleaning personnel. They never make eye contact with the customers. They just keep their head down as they work. I know it's an indication of embarrassment.

I'll bet that their response will be the same as the street cleaner on South Orange Avenue. He would respond with a wave and a big smile.

His eyes would return to the pavement and he continued " pushing a broom."


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