New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Livid

Here is an infuriating New York City scenario. You are driving a car or in a taxi on an avenue and need to change direction by turning onto a crosstown street. Now in most situations, you have many choices as to which crosstown street - most of Manhattan is a grid. There are 20 crosstown blocks to a mile, so for most trips you there are dozens of streets you could take. If you are really knowledgeable about traffic patterns, you can narrow your choices, but nearly always, you will still have many equally good options. Your final decision will have an element of whim.
So you make a turn down a street and by pure chance you happen to select the block where a sanitation truck is picking up trash. The street is not wide enough to pass and sanitation workers will never try to accommodate you in any way. And you know you will be there for quite some time, crawling behind that truck, watching as they go about their business one can at a time with no sense of urgency, because this is their job, a job that must be done. And what can you say or do? This is the New York City Department of Sanitation and you want the city kept clean, right?
Now if you are a Zen master or one who can take life in stride, perhaps laugh at times like this, then you are fortunate. But if you are in a bit of a hurry or prefer not to spend your life waiting for traffic lights or behind trucks, because you have already spent too much of your life here waiting, then you may find yourself stewing a bit. There are better things to do. As time passes behind that truck, time that passes slowly (it will be a long time to go down that whole street stopping at every building) you can easily imagine having chosen another street. Any other street. You can play out all the scenarios and reflect on the odds that of all the streets in New York, you chose this one. No backing up either, because in this city, it is rare that cars are not immediately behind you.
You will have time to exhaust all the things you could have done or should have done, because sanitation workers are in no hurry. They are absolutely immune to any belligerent actions - they have experience on a daily basis with all manner of threats and attention getting tactics. You can pretend you are relaxed, enjoying music or reading. But if you are a type A personality or high strung, you can work yourself into a livid, absolutely furious state. Occasionally, in a city of extremes, livid will be the emotion du jour. :)

Photo note: This photo was taken going south on Washington Square West in the morning - not the classic avenue/crosstown street scenario. There were few trash pickups to be made, little traffic and some opportunities to pass around the truck. So this was only reminiscent of the real deal, not an authentic ulcer maker.

12 comments:

Lily Hydrangea said...

I guess if the workers accommodate one car there will soon be another right behind and they would never finish their route.
The sanitation workers on long island always accommodate the cars here in the morning. They also move very quickly. I wonder if they are timed like the postal carriers are.We have lots of traffic here but not nearly as much as NYC does.

Mo said...

Or just take lots of photos of these guys doing their work. Think I'd be a bit agitated too.

Terry B said...

A thoughtful and thought-provoking post as usual, Brian. I certainly understand your frustration. But reading "Secrets of the San Man" a few years ago in New York magazine gave me a profound new respect for sanitation workers. In the article, writer Elizabeth Royte spent a day riding with a crew to see what happened to her trash. In the process, she learned some impressive [and scary] things about the life of these guys. Like the fact that they’re more than three times more likely to be killed on the job than police officers or firefighters. And that It takes about a year for a san man’s body to become accustomed to lifting four to five tons a day, in 70-pound bags. Give the article a read; I think you'll be a little more inclined to cut them some slack.

Brian Dubé said...

Oh, I give them a lot of slack. But the rational mind does not always control the emotions. I think the frustration in these situations is more about bad luck rather than bad behavior on the part of workers doing their job. And sitting behind one does give time to build a case against them, perhaps unreasonably.
BTW, I really haven't been irritated by this in years. My last memory of being angry was when I drove a taxi during my college years. In that case, time was money, exacerbating the whole situation. At the time I took this photo I was quite calm and having a good time.

Terry B said...

I figured as much, Brian. Do give the article a read, though. As a lover of all things New York [as am I], I think you'll enjoy it--lots of cool, arcane information.

Lorelai said...

You didn't give this posting a title!

Blognote said...

The same thing happens here too! I am not Zenmaster at all and I still find myself grinding my teeth looking at my white nuckles on the steering wheel, when I am behind these fellows doing their job!!

Michael said...

Here in Brooklyn, I have seen the driver make a loop around the block so traffic can get by. His/her partner uses that time to pull the barrels out into the street. Anyway, Whatta doin' in a car in Manhattan?

Mame said...

I love the guys in green - they keep our city clean! Nice picture. I like the girl looking a the truck.

Hilda said...

"There were few trash pickups to be made, little traffic and some opportunities to pass around the truck. So this was only reminiscent of the real deal, not an authentic ulcer maker."

I'm glad for you then. The scenario you described would give me an ulcer too.

Christopher Gray said...

The problem with garbage trucks "blocking the street" is not the truck - which is using the streets for movement and delivery and pickup, exactly their intended purpose. The problem is the city's policy of "free parking" - that is, allowing the street, often both sides of the street, to be used for car storage, which benefits a tiny few.

Christopher Gray

NYC Rhymology said...

Mr. Dubé: I blogged this sanitation truck photo for a rhyme at http://www.nycrhymology.com/new-york/starbucks-garbage-trucks. I hope that's kosher; if not, please let me know. Thank you.