Seated on a bench waiting for an old school friend, I hummed quietly (and slightly dementedly) to myself. Situated by a junction in the centre of town, cars swished by as I eyed a sweeper truck crawling along the curb toward me. Peering over the dashboard, the driver guided his furiously spinning brushes through the gutter as litter of every genre was hoovered from sight. If ever there was a calling both noble and pure, it is that of the municipal street sanitiser. Entirely unsung, through the filth and grime of the world he pilots his sturdy craft, a wake of gleaming tarmac testament to his tireless industry. A proud tear welling in my eye, I watched his steed battle bravely past.
But my ‘joie de vivre’ was short lived. Imagine my audible gasp when, rounding the next corner, a hand protruded from yonder truck window and released a crisp packet from its hairy-knuckled grasp. Fluttering to the ground, it became on contact what can only be described as litter. Oh, what had I witnessed? Such wanton destruction of tarmac’s virgin purity! Panicked, I racked my reeling brain for a just and noble motivation.
A bold political statement, perhaps, or an act of heroic protest against ‘The Man’? Clearly it was designed to highlight the plight of the working class, or maintain the perpetual grubbiness of streets to safeguard jobs for future generations of sweepers. Though momentarily buoyed by this notion, I soon realised that an almost complete absence of placard-wielding protesters ruled out a political cause. Perhaps it was ‘Art’? I craned round, half expecting to spy a small group of aficionados, deep in meditative contemplation. But no.
A wise man once said, “When you remove the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth”. Thus was I left with the uncomfortable conclusion that our paragon of all that is street-sweeperish was not what he seemed. Perhaps he was a machiavellian genius bent on council district domination, or maybe his brain cell hadn’t grasped the subtle purpose of his job. Either way, he was not the driven idealist of my imagination. Another fragile dream falls, crushed and bloodied by the wayside.
Later that evening, eyes burning with salty tears, I ripped ‘Street Sweeping Heroes 2005’ from my bedroom wall and cast it into the fire. Unable to look away, I watched as Mr December was hungrily consumed, the orange flames licking across his jacket of fetching fluorescent yellow. Once a potent symbol of hope in adversity, such yellow shall remain to me forever tainted, redolent of betrayal and deceit. Shaking both with grief and fury, I turned from the hearth, my jaw set in grim determination. So began my search for a new form of spirituality, one free from the strictures of that accursed colour. Early research suggests the Dalai Lama prefers red of a cheery autumnal hue…