In my real job I work in a local refinery, I won’t go into details, but the next time you’re enjoying a beer, spare a thought for the many folk working round the clock in your town to make that handy little can.
It’s a far cry from my original career choice, when as a young school leaver I wanted to be a Parks and Wildlife Officer. I pictured a life of cruising through the bush in a 4WD, flying helicopters, and chatting with the local wildlife, just like on Skippy. Well, one thing followed another, and I never quite got round to pursuing that particular vocation. For which I am now very grateful.
During a visit to a National Park, a Ranger parked his truck near our campsite and wandered over. “Hullo,” I said cheerfully, and was greeted with a nod and a grunt. Handing him the camping fees I tried again, “Nice day isn’t mate?”
“Not really,” he replied abruptly.
It dawned on me that there was something wrong here. We were in a beautiful park, on a great day, and this bloke looked about as happy as a child being dragged to the doctors for a shot. I got a little annoyed, “Geez mate, you’re doing it tough aren’t you?” I said irritably, “Anytime you want to swap jobs just give me a call!”
He looked up crossly, “Come with me,” he snapped, and led me toward the toilet blocks. Now, having been bought up to follow instructions from folk in uniform I tagged along, but not without some anxiety. I mean, there are limits to my obedience…
At the toilets, the Ranger pushed open the door and the rancid smell hit me like a well aimed half brick. The scene that lay before us was appalling. “Looks like we’ve had another Poo Picasso in today,” he said through gritted teeth.
My astonished eyes took in the filth which had been smeared all over the floor, walls, doors, ceiling, and hand basins. I stared mutely at the stomach turning scene, while he nipped back to his truck, returning moments later with some cleaning equipment. “You know,” he said, slipping on a pair of thick rubber gloves, “it’s one thing to get away from civilization, but it’s quite another to be civilized when you do.” I nodded in agreement, unable and unwilling to open my mouth.
He started scraping the mess off the ceiling, “When I signed up,” he grunted, “I thought I’d be spending my days scuba diving, driving fast boats, and visiting tropical islands.” Thrusting the mop back into the bucket he turned and poked me in the chest with a wet and filthy finger, “And do you know what I am mate?” his voice rising with anger, “I’m a bloody toilet cleaner! That’s what my job boils down to; cleaning dunnies for filthy idiots who don’t know the meaning of the word ‘consideration’! And I’ve got another two toilets to clean after this one,” he shrieked, “and you can take it from me pal, they’ll all be like this, or worse! Then tomorrow, I get to do it all over again!”
I shot through, leaving him standing alone, purple-faced in the doorway. Later, I made my way to a secluded section of bush, clutching a small shovel and a roll of toilet paper, and squatting in natures’ relatively clean and fresh smelling restroom, I felt extremely relieved for a couple of reasons, one of them was for the simple fact that I hadn’t headed down the glittering career path of Parks Dunny Cleaner.
A week later I was back at the refinery going about my routine duties with a smile on my face, grateful to be covered in the comparatively clean grime, muck and dust of my workplace. It had dawned on me that the reason why the grass on the other side of the fence may look so green and lush, is because it is probably being watered by a very putrid bog just below the surface.