Sanitation workers discovered what appeared to be a dismembered carcass inside a trash bag in the 5700 block of Harbison Avenue early Thursday and alerted police.
It turns out that the remains belonged to a dog. Just the thought of having to deal with that on a scorching hot day completely skeeves me out.
Not Niddarah Winters. She’s used to it. A former sanitation worker, Winters spent four long years hauling trash and dealing with the most disgusting sights and smells imaginable. It was backbreaking work, but she did it day in and day out for seven years altogether.
“You throw cans into the trash truck and animals jump out of the trash truck on you,” she recalled. “You’ve got to watch out for the raccoons. There’s maggots everywhere. It’s hot. It stinks. The juice sprays out the trash truck on you. It’s bad. It’s really bad.”
It’s not uncommon for trash handlers to come across such rotting animal carcasses as they discovered Thursday.
“[Working on a] trash truck is a bad job but it will humble you. It will make you want more. I feel like that job made me want more,” Winters said. “It made me work a lot harder than just sitting at a desk job.”
And what she found herself wanting more than anything was a different way to earn a living. So, even though she had zero background in fashion, she decided to go for her dream and create her own fashion line. She calls it Hijabified, a line of modest clothing geared toward Islamic men and women. She sells tunics, head coverings and some pieces that even non-Islamic customers might like. Her most popular items are head coverings that sell for $35 and come in hot pink, purple, lime green and denim.
It’s been a learning process, with plenty of stumbles along the way — a T-shirt line that didn’t take off and an entire shipment of improperly sized merchandise that put her in a hole financially because she had borrowed $20,000 to pay for it. But things have been looking up lately. Winters has a showroom that’s in the process of expanding to a retail location at 2563 Germantown Ave.
She’s moved on from driving trash trucks. These days, she operates a tri-axle truck for the Streets Department in the asphalt division and has her eye set on getting a class A commercial driver’s license and also one day showing her clothing items at Dubai Fashion Week in the United Arab Emirates. Although she’s on leave from work until Aug. 1 to focus, she hasn’t quit her day job.
“Her willingness to submit to her passion and give it everything is inspiring,” said Terrill “Ya Fav Trashman” Haigler, who started a grassroots campaign to raise money to ensure that his colleagues in the city sanitation department had personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. “Being a sanitation worker is the most humbling experience ever.”
“It gives a sense of grounding where I don’t want to be throwing trash for the rest of my life,” said Haigler, who resigned in February. “I don’t want to be driving the truck for the rest of my life. But I’ll use it as a vehicle until I’m able to step away comfortably and be able to really pursue my passion and walk out my destiny and do the things that I’ve been dreaming about while driving this truck.
“And I think that’s the biggest thing about Na is that she really is going to stick in there until the last possible moment to where she has built her company and can survive on her own and I think she’ll retire. But until then, she is not too good to still work and chase her passion at the same time. That’s where some people go wrong.”
I’m impressed. Anyone willing to haul trash and drive trucks to make her dream come true gets my respect. It’s one thing to pursue your dream job. But it’s a whole other thing to do it in a realistic way.
She’s an inspiration.