Down and Dirty

On Feb. 23, Matt Lauer of NBC's “Today Show” ditched co-host Katie Couric for a new sidekick: New York City's Department of Sanitation (DSNY). As part of the morning show's weeklong moonlighting series, Lauer spent a day based out of the Brooklyn 2 garage cleaning up the city and getting the inside scoop on city solid waste management from the sanitation crew.

“In a city that produces 12,000 tons of trash every day, it's time someone said ‘thanks’ to the guys in green,” Lauer began the segment by saying. After spending an hour on the job clearing about two blocks, he learned that being a sanitation worker involves much more than just putting on the green uniform.

Aside from feeling the unexpected weight of the trash, he rode on the back of a city sanitation truck and experienced leaky trash bags, rats and urinating dogs. “You know what's freaking me out the most about going out there with you guys is the garbage bags with the pee-pee on it,” he said while chatting with the crew.

Lauer also treated viewers to a lesson in trash lingo. With the help of his fellow sanitation workers, he explained the meaning of common industry terms, such as “hopper,” “mongo,” “disco rice” and “hopper juice,” which he pointed out, is not for drinking.

Lauer's guide for the day was John Caddy, a department veteran of almost 20 years, and Caddy's daughter, Danielle, who joined DSNY about four months ago. They were picked for the segment after producers from the “Today Show” read a story about the father-daughter duo. While both Caddys work for DSNY, they rarely work together.

Although Lauer asked for a coffee break 15 minutes into his shift, the elder Caddy says that the morning show host did a great job. “He looked like a sanitation worker; he acted like a sanitation worker; he worked like a sanitation worker,” Caddy told Waste Age. The only individual critical of Lauer was Oscar the Grouch, who appeared in the segment and called him a “rookie.”

Back in the studio, reflecting on his experience, Matt urged New York residents to practice kindness toward the city's sanitation workers. “The next time you're driving and a garbage truck is blocking the street, before you honk your horn, unless you want to pick the garbage up yourself, don't do it,” he said.

Caddy says that people who recognize him from the show have stopped him on the street to tell him that they have been heeding Lauer's advice. Caddy hopes the city's new appreciation for the DSNY actually lasts.