THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
“Do you really want to trash me?”
The Boston Herald — August 2, 2006
What impact does humiliation have on employee morale?
You know the answer. I know the answer. But the supervisor of New York
City’s 7,000-plus sanitation workers is inexplicably allowing his
department to be used as a petri dish for criminal
Fallen pop culture icon Boy George, the former lead singer of
gender-bending “Culture Club,” agreed earlier this week to serve five
days of community service as a garbage man in one of Manhattan’s
high-traffic tourist spots. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Anthony
Ferrara threatened the Karma Chameleon, a.k.a. George O’Dowd, with
jail time if he did not report for trash duty before Aug. 28.
Imagine you’re toiling as a street sweeper or a sanitation truck
worker – quite the fun assignment in 100-degree Manhattan smog – and
you learn that a washed-up celebrity has been ordered to do your job.
As a punishment.
The effeminate singer, best known for his outrageous make-up and ribbon-tied
braids, plead guilty to reporting a false break-in at his Little
Italy apartment last fall. Police had discovered cocaine at the scene,
but the drug charges were later dropped.
New York Department of Sanitation spokesman Vito Turso confirmed with
the Daily News that Boy George soon will be bringing his broom and
shovel to high-litter areas such as Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
“We also send them to vacant lots and to sweep sidewalks,” he crowed.
“This is the epitome of community service,” Turso added.
“It’s not like he’s going to be working in an air-conditioned office.”
Since when does a trash department hack get to act like a prison
warden gloating about all the big rocks that will soon be broken down
into little rocks?
Maybe Judge Ferrara hated his childhood piano teacher. Or maybe a
woman once rejected him at a singles dance during “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.”
Because the normal rules of criminal justice don’t apply here.
Assigning the Boy to trash duty is not only vindictive – it’s an
inappropriate waste of resources.
His mandatory community service should involve talking to high school
kids about drugs, judging karaoke at a nursing home or warning
Americans about the hidden dangers of falling in love with your
But the judge wants to shame Boy George. He wants those manicured
fingernails to get tarnished by sticky soda cans and cigarette butts.
He wants to see the singer be tormented by the lyrics of his most
popular hit song.
“Do I really want to hurt you?” a meanspirited co-worker might
rhetorically ask. “Do I really want to make you cry?”
So while Boy George is mocked and gawked at by the public, and lives
out the sad conclusion of his soon-to-be revised “Behind the Music”
biography, the regular guys in uniform must be wondering if their careers are a joke, too.
George has teased the media in the past that he might protest his
punishment by showing up to work in a Big Bird costume. At this point
in his career, that might be a wise move — providing a gateway to the
children’s birthday party market.
Ironically, the Big Apple’s sanitation bosses have made a tremendous
effort to market their profession as highly respected and desirable – even
going as far as issuing special World Series-style rings branding the
DSNY as “New York’s Strongest.”
That image is bound to unravel when the humiliation of the Boy begins.
Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. He was also vehemently opposed to the garbage-themed humilation of supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Do you work in the waste management industry? What do you think of punishing celebrities by making them pick up litter? How long do you think the Karma Chameleon or Miss Naomi Campbell would survive on the back of a garbage truck?
Send your insights to heraldstiff (at) gmail.com