Rats, cockroaches, and poo…oh my!

Environmental laboratory and field assistantooh, this job sounded perfect for a hopeful young scientist!  And the job sounds impressive, right?  Well, as it turns out, not so much.  But I wasn’t in a position to be too picky, after all it was a job in my profession and I needed this job desperately to fund my college education.  And so I began my new job with great anticipation.

One of the services I soon learned that we offered was “effluent water quality monitoring and flow measurements.” Translation: We will battle the cockroaches and other vermin in your sewers, stick our hands in water from flushed toilets & industrial waste water, and wade through sewers full of petrified poo and collect samples…

While I’m sure it sounds very glamorous, believe it or not, even this exciting job got to be mundane.

  • Oh, gee another giant cockroach.
  • Hey, here comes another rat toward us.
  • Oh no, you stay behind and let me crawl on my hands and knees through methane filled, crumbling sewers.

And some days I just had a hard time getting excited about exposing my body to toxic wastes — wimp!

But in those times of weakness when I felt like this wasn’t exactly why I was attending the university, my fellow sewer rat and recent college graduate himself, would remind me how important our job was.  He was right.

All kidding aside, our work was the first step in collecting meaningful data.  These data would allow others to make potentially significant decisions about how best to operate their plant and comply with complex environmental regulations.

We were young men and didn’t realize it then, but we were selling our company and ourselves.  We took our job very seriously and there were few challenges we were not able to overcome.  And when our sales team was selling the expensive laboratory analysis, they would add, “…and let me tell you about our exceptional field services team that will collect those samples.”

There are many less than desirable jobs – but there is no job that does not deserve our best effort.  The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were quite appropriate for this chapter in my life,

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

Street sweeper, salesman, cook, administrative assistant, accountant, or even sewer rat – it deserves our best effort!

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