WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – When heat indexes reach into the triple digits, we often think of the men and women in uniform braving the elements to keep us safe.
However, there is a different type of public servant, one with the dirtiest of jobs, which are much less recognized: sanitation workers.
“The first week I started I thought I was gonna quit,” said Johann Haney, sanitation worker for the city of Winston-Salem.
These men and women dispose of our trash four days a week, Tuesday through Friday. Often working four, eight, or even 10 hour days, the current months are the least desirable.
“Once it starts kicking into the 95s and above,” Haney said. “The heat is, it’s unbearable.”
Winston-Salem sanitation workers are responsible for 84,000 stops every week, and the job is certainly not for everyone.
“I wasn’t prepared for what was gonna be out here,” Haney said, of his first week 6 years ago. “A lot of people come out here and work this job, they don’t last a week.”
We’ll spare you the details. But, there are some positives, including that some say they become impervious to odor.
“You see kids walking down holding their nose, parents, neighbors, ‘that stuff stinks,’ I can’t even tell,” Haney said.
Also, they don’t need gym memberships.
“This is my workout, especially during the summer time. I come out here and sweat, I’m good. I got a little ab pack going on,” Haney said laughingly.
Haney estimates he walks several miles every day while retrieving and returning garbage cans. Many times, this is when those filling the bins express their gratitude.
“Hand you some water, Gatorade, might give you some money, tell you to go to the store get you something to drink,” he said. “Thank you for the work you do, your services, they know it’s a dirty, nasty job.”