You know, I was not always the handsome, debonair, upwardly mobile, world dictator wannabe. Oh no. Like everyone else, I had to start from the bottom and let’s face it, your bottom and my bottom may not be the same!
Errr…..what I mean is that some lucky sods start at the bottom of the pile but I had the fate of starting even further below that …….underground, so to speak.
My first job could be described as that of a “fecal surveillance hydrologist technician”. But of course, I never heard anyone refer to me as that despite all the fancy name cards I handed out with that title proudly emblazoned.
No. Instead I was kind of known as the Sewage guy or worse, the Shit Guy. (…Cable Guy doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?). You see, my job was to develop tests and to use them to detect the presence of water borne, disease causing pathogens in drinking water and since most of the nasties originate from the feces or shit of infected people, I was really looking out for traces of shit.
Yup, that was my job. It involved taking water samples from all sort of water sources. At the clean end, I collected tap water from a city distribution system. But I also collected water samples in bottles from clear mountain streams, less clear rivers, deep wells, aquifer pumps, shallow wells, muddy holes in the ground and at the other end of the spectrum, from sewage ponds.
In fact, I remember that my boss had a framed photo of himself in his office proudly showing him squatting next to a stinky sewage pond and reaching out to get a sample of dark, suspicious looking water. I, on the other hand have burned all such photos of me doing that. I have also over the years had to burn or bury many of my stinky work clothes! Needless to say, my social life in those dark times was zilch.
But on a serious note, waterborne disease are estimated to affect billions and kill about 2.2 million annually. In many countries, clean treated potable water is still a privilege rather than the norm. It is in these countries, that the need for simple, quick, portable and cheap tests for monitoring water quality remains high.
To summarise, finding shit in drinking water……bad. Doing something to remove the shit in drinking water ……..good.
What was your “start at the bottom of the pile” job?