Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You'll have to slip me a Benjamin to clean that up.

Please forgive me for being so headline-obsessed lately, but I've found another one that I couldn't ignore, from Tuesday's Seattle Post Intelligencer:

"State senator at odds with ferry workers over vomit pay"

My first question was...what the hell is vomit pay? Is it some form of compensation for getting seasick while performing ferry duties? Are these people required to show proof of regurgitation along with an initialed time sheet?

It turns out I wasn't too far off. Washington State ferry workers are paid double their hourly rate for swabbing up previously digested food from the floors of the ferries. Aha, so that's what "poop deck" means.

State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, has taken issue with this policy, and is pushing to re-align ferry employee pay with that of other state government workers. Her contention is that other occupations, such as prison guards, aren't equally compensated for performing similarly unpleasant tasks.

I must agree. And naturally, many jobs exist, both paid and unpaid, where people are reminded on a daily basis that the human body is ninety percent water. Anyone in the health care profession knows this, as does any human being who has ever performed parental duties.

As a dad of young children, I often wasn't even aware that I wore hazardous waste until I looked in the mirror at work, or a fellow employee told me I was wearing pasty Cheerio bits on the left kidney region of my V-neck sweater.

But what about the other jobs, the lines of work where people are hardly compensated to encounter and deal with a lot of nastiness? The prison guard again comes to mind, not because he or she occasionally must clean up a nasty mess, but also because they're often expected to break up "temporary marriages" as they're being consummated. Sound fun?

How about school teachers? My mom, a former first grade teacher, was thrown up on by a kid who'd eaten hot dogs for breakfast...on her head! That was always good for a chuckle or two around the dinner table.

Or what about bus drivers? Are they entitled to "Sociopath Pacification Pay", "Spicy Cheeto Dust in the Eye Pay" or "Ten Drug Deals Witnessed Before Ten AM Pay"? I don't think so.

Maybe actors also deserve remuneration for putting themselves in harm's way. How many times has Tom Cruise risked the inhalation of previously embedded bodily particulates expelled into his immediate atmosphere as the result of spontaneous couch bouncing? He gets nothing for it.

Listen, ferry workers. I'm not saying your jobs are easy. I've seen you people place yourself directly in the path of large trucks, waving them closer to you for that precious additional space. You station yourselves on the bows of your vessels, Puget Sound's worst tempests pounding at your mustaches and ponytails.

You are entitled to be paid decently and fairly by us, the Washington state taxpayers.

But until I see my mom's hot-dog-barf-to-the-face settlement check, put on an extra pair of  latex gloves and stop complaining.


  1. Okay Tim,
    You leave so many questions unanswered. And yet such important dialog. We need discussions such as these with all of our public employees. I need more information though. Like, when does the pay start? Does it include mop retrieval and return time? Chain reactions are always a concern when it comes to...such things. Are they covered in the contract? Is there a confined space clause? Because if there is vomit duty involves more than one employee at which point chain reactions become exponential.

    I am convinced that we need to look at this in a new light. Given my experience with such matters, I am convinced that they fall into another category: "Acts of God" and should be treated as such by the State of Washington.

    One of my college jobs was as an ambulance driver/attendant without any sort of hazard pay for any sort of clean-up. Suffice to say here that cleaning up a patient on a backboard after such an incident is far more intimate than anything a ferry employee could ever visualize.

    I would like to offer a small (and probably meaningless) bit of advice to the parties of this debate. Shut-up and get out the can of minty-fresh barf-b-gone (the real product name escapes me here). There will be no more enabling.

  2. Greg,
    Awesome feedback. I can only imagine the various squeegee sizes needed to be an ambulance driver. Did you have to wear them on some kind of tool belt?
    Please comment again, anytime!