I met Sir-Ma'am at my first trip to the Bloomington Recycling Center back about a year ago. Eric and I loaded up our boxes and boxes of recyclables and made a trip south of town to drop off our stuff. The Recycling Center has several large bins with really detailed descriptions of what is allowed to go INSIDE the bin. It's a big hassle, and that's probably why no one ever recycles. Sir-Ma'am, an employee at the center, was standing against the cardboard bin, which is hooked up a compresser of some sort. His arm looked like it was inside the bin, and the machine was running, so at first glance it looked as if the machine was crushing his arm. The matter was made worse when he made eye contact with me and started uttering "Ma'am! Ma'am! Ma'am!" over and over. I immediately surveyed the situation--here is this worker whose hand is being consumed by a machine, and he's asking me for help! What do I do! And then I calmed down and realized that his hand was not being crushed, and he was not calling out for help. He was just saying "Ma'am" over and over to ask if I needed assistance. Which I didn't. The next time I saw Sir-Ma'am, I was prepared. When he repeated his catch-phrase I just smiled and shook my head (which doesn't really silence him). I reasoned with myself that he had some kind of disorder, whatever it may be, and appreciated his offers for help. In May, I hosted an Arrested Development party with Kelsey and Miyo, and they came over straight from the recycling center. They started to tell me the story of a worker there who kept yelling "Sir! Sir! Sir! Sir!" at Kelsey. I freaked out and told them about my Sir-Ma'am experiences. Kelsey told me that he overheard Sir-Ma'am talking with a co-worker, having a completely normal conversation, with absolutely no affected speech or social difficulties. I told him I didn't believe him--there was no way Sir-Ma'am had a normal conversation with someone. So we did a google search of "Bloomington Recycling Center Sir Ma'am" and found this. Look at the third paragraph of this person's blog. SHE TOO has experienced the Sir-Ma'am phenomenon!
At the end of the summer I made yet another trip to the center. Sir-Ma'am was no where in sight. I remember I had deposited all of my recyclables, except for an orange juice carton. I was wandering around, looking for where to put the carton, when I hear a voice say "Sorry, we don't recycle orange juice cartons here." I look up, and there is Sir-Ma'am, sunlight illuminating his glowing face. He continues "We only recycle those cartons using curbside service." I was at such a loss for what just happened, that I don't even think I responded. I just stood there with an empty carton in my hands. Two minutes later, as I was putting the carton back in my car, I overheard Sir-Ma'am yell "Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir" at a middle-aged man recycling cans with his young son. And I smiled.
5 years ago