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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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One of the Most Important People in Town

Jack WilsonSome truly important people live or work in our mountain/prairie town. Every now and then I discover one I didn’t know about.

A research scientist, a distinguished jurist, a nationally read journalist, the owner of a body damaged defending the good life most of us unreflectively enjoy: individuals who have made, and are still making, significant marks in the world and affecting the course of human history.

Importance does not always equate with prominence or prestige or personal power. A long-time-ago flight instructor used to say, “The bolt that holds the propeller in place is as important as the prop, and the mechanic who locks the bolt in place is as important as the pilot who controls the plane”.

Crossing over into the world of octogenarianism (is that a word?) affects one’s perspective on importance too. Learning to accept with reasonable grace the limitations of decreasingly reliable physical equipment is as much a challenge and chore for me as is my great-granddaughter’s learning to employ her increasingly reliable physical equipment.

The foregoing verbiage is prelude to relating the dramatic moment when I huffed and puffed my way down our exceptionally long driveway, struggling to get an overloaded trash barrel to its weekly rendezvous with the voracious blue monster that ingests the household detritus of roughly 20,000 people.

My unaccustomed exertions were driven by fear that I and my barrel would be left standing forlornly on the gravel just seconds short of his arrival; winded, frustrated, and without excuse, to endure the scorn of the driver of the peripatetic mobile landfill. After all, the standing instructions for this weekly event are that the trash barrel be in place and ready for dénouement early Thursday morning, and here it was nearly noon. I could hear the grinding of the massive gears the next street over, and he was headed my way.

I need not have worried. This driver saw my distress, deployed from his seat, motioned to me to stay where I was, and proceeded to come to me, relieve me of the barrel which he handled like it was a bauble, manipulated the mysterious mechanism that makes dumping an awesome spectator event, and as he passed me with the now empty rolling repository said, “Where do you keep it? I’ll put it back. And from now on just leave it outside the garage door or leave the door open so I can get to it.”

He has repeated his self-imposed service every week since then.

Nothing in my life for several days before or after evoked as much relief and gratitude. That day I became aware that this is one of the most important persons in my life.

And in yours.

Hundreds of homes in the village would be in terrible straits if he did not make his weekly appointed rounds. But how many, like me, prior to that event, even know his name? Or have ever passed thirty seconds in even banal conversation?

Jerome is 28 years old, attended a local high school, and lives in the town just east of here with his wife and two sons, ages 6 and 9. The most joyful fact of his life currently is that his older son is old enough to take fishing, an adventure enthusiastically pursued by father and son, with the son recently besting his dad in their who-caught-the-biggest-fish contest.

About 70 years ago I memorized a bit of doggerel. I have no idea why, or why it has floated back to conscious memory:

We have the nicest garbage man,
He empties out our garbage can.
My mother doesn’t like his smell,
But she doesn’t know him very well.”

To call Jerome a garbage man would be like calling Einstein an arithmetic teacher. He is a sanitary engineer, public health facilitator, refuse recycler, no euphemistic title can tell the story. He’s a humanitarian, a compassionate rescuer of distressed senior citizens.

I told my town councilman neighbor, “You may run the town, but you wouldn’t want to run against Jerome for the title of ‘The Really Important People In Town’”.

Syndicated columnist Jack Wilson lives in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies. His e-mail is jackscolumn@jwco.us.

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