Pinchum: Passionate and proud about  Public Health
Local Vibes
August 15, 2017
Pinchum: Passionate and proud about Public Health

You can tell just by looking at him that this is a man who takes pride in his work.

Wearing a short-sleeved white shirt with a yellow tie and white waistcoat, black dress pants, brown Oxford shoes, and armed with his broom, Randolph ‘Pinchum Best Dressed’ George is no ordinary public health worker. He is not only the self-acclaimed best dressed, but also the best worker overall, as voted by the public in the Best of SVG 2017 awards.

While ‘Best Dressed’ is a fairly recent addition to his name, ‘Pinchum’ has been so called since he was a baby. He inherited the name from his grandfather, who on one occasion wanted to steal bakes made by his wife for farm workers. He did not want to be caught, so instead of taking just one, he pinched off a piece of each of the 26 bakes and then repositioned them so his wife would not notice that they had been tampered with. Of course, his actions were discovered when the bakes were delivered, and he was nicknamed Pinchum. When Randolph was born, his grandmother, on seeing his resemblance to her husband, called him ‘Little Pinchum’. He has, however, not lived up to his name, as he goes about his life and work with a huge dash of passion.

George has been employed with the Public Health Department since 1992, when he returned to St Vincent after working as a mason in Trinidad for 10 years. Unable to find work in the construction sector, he decided, since he loved cleaning anyway, that a job in public health was a good fit for him. He works the Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift, sweeping his assigned sections of Kingstown’s streets. SEARCHLIGHT accompanied him on one such morning, as he worked along the waterfront at the Leeward Bus Terminal and in Paul’s Avenue. The workers usually go out in teams of three, but the department is short-staffed, so George, the broom-man, is accompanied only by the barrow-man, Wayne. The two take turns crisscrossing the street, George sweeping the litter into little piles, which Wayne then shovels into a bin with wheels. It is hectic work on a warm morning, but the pair goes about it cheerfully and diligently.

As someone who sees the importance of a healthy environment, George is concerned that some people litter deliberately with the expectation that his department will clean up, even in cases where bins are provided. Additionally, he and his co-workers often encounter negative attitudes from the public, ranging from dismissive to hostile.

“People sitting there, they waiting on you to say excuse me. They want to cuss yuh and tell yuh tek care yuh sweep thing on me and yuh see yuh face, yuh looking like garbage. We does get a lot of insults from the people out there man, especially the market vendors and them, I don’t know way sanitation workers do them, but they just don’t want to get up to move for you to sweep the garbage,” he lamented.

Another challenge to the job is the makeshift tables and booths of street vendors, which hinder the sweepers from reaching the litter, and worse, because of their haphazard construction, pose risk of injury.

George said he and his colleagues also face difficulties from within the department itself, including uniforms not being supplied in a timely manner, so they started wearing their own clothes. “I am the best dressed sanitation worker and I don’t think no one could ever get close to me with the dressing,” boasted George. “Not because yuh working in the garbage yuh must look like it.”