You may not be familiar with the time-sweepers. The time-sweepers are the people who sweep up all the time that is lost and wasted. You cannot see them, though if you are in the railway station and think you see something out of the corner of your eye, that will probably be a time-sweeper, cleaning up around the bench you are sitting on. If you were to see them, you would find a small, bluish person with an intent expression, clutching a broom and a mop. The men wear overalls, the women old-fashioned tweed skirts and scarves on their head.
The time-sweepers are present wherever time is being lost or wasted. There are always several in train stations, and at least one in every doctors surgery. The man who has waited so long to propose to his girlfriend that her hair has gone grey, probably has his own personal time-sweeper following him around. The woman who has spent thirty-five loathed years in an estate agents, dreaming of opening a florists, causes the neighbourhood time-sweeper to sigh, and fetch a bigger dustpan.
You should not feel sorry for the time-sweepers, though their work is menial: they are never sick, do not worry that they are in the wrong career, and have excellent working conditions, though what they do for leisure is unknown. They enjoy bank holidays off, which is why, on these days, there seems so much more time than usual. At Christmas and new year, the time-sweepers have a week's holiday. When they return to work in January, they face a vast backlog of time which has been lost, wasted and thrown away over the holidays. It takes them around three weeks to resume normal service, which is why January always seems to last longer than other months.
The time-sweepers have been around forever, though modern life has created wasted time in such large concentrations that in some places the time-sweepers have been forced to industrialise their operations, buying a number of specialised compressing lorries similar to those used by ordinary bin-men. They use these for the largest collections, at prisons and shopping malls, two venues where the tide of wasted time threatens to swamp even the most dedicated operatives.