Saturday, June 18, 2011

Out with the old

Yesterday a rubbish truck came to Sumikawa. Now, this might seem like an insignificant event. Trifling, even. But there are additional facts to consider:

1. The garbage system in Sapporo is incredibly complex. Every different component of the leavings of your life must be separated. Plastics, bottles, cans, paper, cardboard. Items that don't fit those precise descriptions can be discarded only once a month in a ceremony which - I'm pretty sure - involves word-of-mouth (Japanese words; Japanese mouths), secret midnight meetings and ritual animal sacrifices.

2. I live in a little neighbourhood full of little women with lots of spare time on their hands, who like to go through the trash, find the contents that fail to adhere to the strict separation rules, identify the garbage by finding envelopes with names thereon, and depositing the offending item back in the wrong-doers mail box.

3. I moved into an apartment filled with decades worth of crap.

Even figuring out precisely when the truck was going to come was something of a challenge, since we were notified by email, and my supervisor types in code. For example:

"Even though you think Unnecessary, but if the things are provided by the BoE, don’t throw. But that thing is so old and already broken and sleeping so many years, BOE says OK to throw. (kind of old broke CD player in the closet, telephone set sleeping under the desk)"

"Addition to the Garbage collection guideline:
7. Expect tires.
8. If you throw stoves, release lamp oil"

"So you must call out to each other when the garbage wagon arrives and carry heavy things and so on."

Complicated, no?

"The garbage wagon is here!"

"What's a garbage wagon?"

"I don't know, I think it's like a truck?"

"Oh! Good! Will you help me carry this heavy thing?"

"I can't! I'm expecting tires!"

"Oh! Really? From where?"

"I don't know... I'm just being cautious. And stop yelling!"


"You'll wake up my telephone set!"

But, yesterday, a rubbish truck came to Sumikawa. And we were allowed to throw out anything we wanted, which necessitated my opening all the jam-packed cupboards in my little apartment. Seriously, the lengths that former residents of my abode had gone to to hide away the junk of ages past was almost admirable. There were shoe boxes, taped shut, filled with hundreds and hundreds of old pens. There was a large plastic box, secreted inside three plastic bags, filled with various medical paraphenalia. Nine pairs of slippers. Did you know I have a barbeque? Neither did I.

On Saturday morning, I got up early. I bemoaned the fact that I lived on the eleventh floor. I jammed open my door (lacking in a doorstop, I utilized a wooden spoon and a chopping board. Who says I'm not practical, hmm?). I toted down 13 large plastics bags filled with rubbish, 4 futons, 3 blankets. I emptied my shed of TWO sets of golf clubs, a complicated shelving unit and, last but not least, my rusty blue Mama Cherry.

I looked at the all the shit I'd got rid of, and I was hugely relieved. And then the little Japanese men who'd accompanied the garbage truck picked up my Mama and threw her in the back of the truck and turned it on. And a huge metal bar pressed down. She bent. She broke. Her seat popped off, and her bell rang no more. My little Mama Cherry, who had carried who knows how many foreigners, including my father, to and from the station, faithfully.

You know you're truly materialistic when your heart breaks for a bike.

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