If Weird Al Yankovic were to choose Radiohead’s “Karma Police” for one of his absurdist spoofs, the title could be “Garbage Police.” But the joke would be on Yankovic because the Garbage Police are very real.
In Switzerland, where rubbish collection is strictly regulated, there are people hired by the local municipalities to find the violators. How do they do this? Sifting through trash. Finding an addressed letter — that’s hitting gold.
My adopted kinfolk seemingly have a penchant for formalized curtain-twitching. The most famous Swiss film, “Die Schweizermacher,” is a hilarious send up of the process of becoming a Swiss citizen. And, as Homer Simpson accurately observed: “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.” Swiss immigration hasn’t changed significantly since 1978. The officer may not hide in the bushes with a long lens camera, but he does loiter reading the names on mailboxes prior to your scheduled interview. Or, if suspicion exists, he may show up unannounced.
But it’s not just immigrants who are potential targets of this spying. Just last year Swiss voters passed the “social welfare detectives” measure, which allows social insurance agencies to surveil welfare recipients. The goal is to prevent benefit fraud.
There’s a reason “Die Schweizermacher” is beloved. At least it shows the ability of a nation to laugh at itself.
But what made me think of the Garbage Police? Turns out I’ve become one. Because Denver doesn’t provide recycling services to apartment buildings (Snapshot, April 5), neighbors have taken to dumping their recyclables in ours.
When I landed on an envelope with a name and address and thought “success!” that’s when I knew that even the detectives in “Die Schweizermacher” would have recommended me for Swiss citizenship.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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