Meeting Tanya

There were “No Parking” signs along our street for today, so I had to move my car before 9AM. I eventually found a parking spot somewhat far way from the house… and on my walk home, I saw a street sweeper hooked up to a nearby fire hydrant.

I’d seen a similar machine a few times along 53rd street (but that one was almost customized with White Sox branding), also filling up at a fire hydrant. I walked by, but after a few feet… turned around. I missed my chance to ask questions with the White Sox sweeper, and didn’t want to pass up this opportunity.

Right off the bat, Tanya was excited to talk about the street sweeper and her job. I learned a lot of interesting details, and she fielded every question I threw at her.

Overall, the sweepers hold about 225 gallons of water. She said that on a normal day, she can usually fill up twice and that’s all she needs. Sometimes it’s three times.

As we were talking, water started spilling out of the sweeper. She joked and said “When it starts peeing, you’re done.”

Tanya described the area that she covers, and how wide that area is. From the lake to the area near where I live, over to the University. As she described the different backdrops, I realized just how different parts of Hyde Park are, how rich the area really is in terms of its shops, housing, texture and space.

Inside, there are steering wheels on both sides (so the driver can be closer to the curb they’re cleaning). A bane for the street sweepers: yard workers who just blow leaves from the sidewalks and lawns into the street. Tanya was very adamant about this, in that landscapers are paid to bag leaves (and that it’s illegal to blow them into the street).

She also told me that the street sweepers are designed to clean up the natural amount of debris that accrues, and can’t accommodate people just dumping load of yard waste into the streets. With all the streets that need to be covered, she can only remove so much before needing to move on. This very much changed my mentality of “Oh, the street sweeper will take care of it.” Definitely not the case.

This week was a holiday week (Columbus Day on Monday). As a result, the trash crews had a day off but were down a day in terms of collecting all the garbage. On weeks like this, Tanya (like other works) had to use one of her days to help out with garbage pickup. Just because there’s a day off doesn’t mean everyone stops producing waste.

I also learned that when she’s not driving the sweeper, she drives the plow trucks in the winter. Tanya’s been working Hyde Park for the last 7 years now.

Oh! The White Sox sweeper I saw a few times before? That was also Tanya! I had a hunch it might have been her, but was still lovely to realize that I walked by her at least once before… meaning to ask questions, but never did. And today I got another chance to ask.

As I was taking a picture of the sweeper, Tanya moved in and said “As long as you’re taking pictures, you might as well get me too.” I told her I was just about to ask to take her photo as well, so that worked out all around.

Tanya, who was just about as excited to answer my questions as I was to ask them. I’ll be sure to not push all my leaves into the street, and to keep an eye out for her on the roads. Hoping I run into her again as she’s sweeping so I can call out and wave. And come winter time, when the snow arrives, I guess I need to keep an eye out for the snow plows as well.

Signs of Things to Come
What’s That For?
Rubin’s Spiked Bracelet, Chicago Blue Line
On the Merits of Curiosity and Being a Little Extroverted
Always Ask

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