Posted by He Said
Each and every day I walk down a small alley on my way to work. It’s not really an alley, but more of a small side street. If it weren’t for the small bottled water shop (with its army of electric bicycles and attached flatbed trailers) on one side and on the other a restaurant (which at first, second, and third glance I will likely never enter) and finally the “Stemed Dumping Shop”, which I hear has tasty dumpings, this would be any other dirty side street in any other town. Well, not really, this is Beijing after all.
Just past the Stemed Dumping shop the smell hits me. Not the powerful smell of Asian food, but of garbage.
This is the next visual attraction that I pass each and every morning. Piles and piles of garbage on the side of the road. The first few times I walked past it, it was quite early and I was just surprised and frankly a little grossed out by the volume of garbage piled so high directly across from the restaurant that was now so aptly named.
It took several passes through the alley before I noticed a man hanging around the garbage, then another few times before I noticed him sifting through the garbage.
My first American impulse is that poor man, scrounging for what he can find.
After a few more passes through the alley a new picture emerged. This was not a homeless man looking for a bite to eat.
This was the garbage man.
Each and every day that pile reappears, and each and every day he is seen sorting, sifting and bagging the garbage. On cold days I have seen him wearing gloves, but lately he has been doing this barehanded. He sorts, flattens and stacks the cardboard. He separates the bottles and cans. He bags the miscellaneous garbage together.
And he stacks it onto his bike.
This is the life of the Beijing Garbage Man. Once his bike is loaded, he then takes it to a central collection location. There are no garbage trucks (at least in this area). There is an army of men on bikes. Men who have meticulously sorted the trash and loaded it on their bicycles which they then climb on and pedal to the “dump”, wherever that might be.
You have a hard life, sir, and I suspect you don’t get the respect you deserve. Thank you.