Thursday, September 19, 2013


When I am hauling trash, people do not suspect that I am also a man of letters. They see me as someone who picks up their dog crap. They give me crap, literally. Recently I paused before turning into a St. Paul alley in order to let a couple walk their dog in front of me on the sidewalk. I waved in a friendly manner, and the man turned and approached me solicitously. I thought maybe he might be our customer wanting to thank me for outstanding service. But no, he wanted to give me his bag of dog do-do. "Sure," I said, "toss it in."

As I drove away from the couple with their dog's poop, I was thinking that it might be the first time anyone had given me s---, literally.

Scholarship does not fit the image people have of us garbage-guys. Who knows? Maybe there are a whole bunch of us out there--undercover--pondering the meaning of words and ideas with the juice of rotting chicken smeared on our shirts. Like Wes, shown here after a 14 hour day, heat index at 105, pondering the meaning of life...

The word, "literally," has been forced into unsavory service in our language. But wait, the word "literal" (literally) should mean something is taken in a literary sense, in the sense of words, language and writing. In other words, as a metaphor, since all language is built on metaphor, and "metaphor" itself is a metaphor (literally, from Greek) meaning "to carry across."

No, it should be that if the couple had literally given me s---, they would have tossed me a remark about the smell emanating from my truck, or something like that. What we mean by "literally," is--actually--"actually." They actually gave me crap.

See how amazingly helpful and useful scholarship can be? I'm sure most people would rather just have me take their crap...