Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hidden America

After tying up your garbage and walking it out to the curb, do you really think about the people who handle it beyond that point?

When rinsing those delicious blueberries and thinking about how great they'll taste in your cereal, are you ever wondering about the hands that picked them for you?

Are professional cheerleaders just a bunch of dummies with killer hair and rockin' bodies?

When you pull up to the pump every week do you realize how dangerous it was for the team of riggers to obtain that oil for your car?

Jeanne Marie Laskas's Hidden America explores these forgotten questions and more in her interesting and humbling inspection of the jobs that keep America running and those that most have completely taken for granted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for various reasons.  One being that it completely made me feel stupid.  Why would that be enjoyable?  Because it opened my eyes to essential elements of my country that I had not given much thought prior to reading this book. Although uneasy at times, I actually felt better knowing the truth behind so many jobs that are the glue that holds our everyday needs together.

Laskas explores about a dozen professions including air traffic controller, truck driver, beef rancher, and gun shop owner, just to name a few.  I found almost all of these profiles to be enlightening and worthy of knowing more about but there are a few that are still resonating with me.  My favorite profile was the last chapter where Laskas visits a landfill in California.  Garbage typically isn't something the average person likes or wants to think about long-term.  However, there are engineers out there who have a true passion for trash and devote their entire lives to figuring out how to solve our 50 year dilemma called, "Hey, where are we gonna put all our crap for the next 50 years?"  "Garbage men" so to speak, are not just some dirty guys who weren't qualified to work a "cleaner" job but individuals who are invested in taking care of a huge problem that we ALL have: waste. They take those unsightly bags out of our lives and deal with an issue that most of us don't seem to want to think about ... but we should.  I learned that these professionals are actually environmentalists who care about fixing and prolonging the health of our planet. And they do all this day in and day out without us even giving a moment's thought to the whole scheme of things.

Laskas engages readers not only into the professional workings of each job but the personal lives that ARE the jobs.  The common thread found throughout each job profile is passion.  There was so much devotion pouring from the pages of Laskas narratives that you couldn't help but feel grateful that these people exist for your benefit.  Many of these professions hold a "lifer" mentality where the employees somehow contain the job qualities in their blood and want to work till the day they die.  Laskas captured the pride behind these hidden jobs and proved to readers that there is so much more to what meets the eye.   

Quality Rating: (out of 5 stars)