Taking out the trash

In the space of one minute I was made to face two of my biggest pet peeves in China. Walking into the convenience store, there was a man about to walk out. I pushed the door into the “stay-open” position so as to leave it agape for him. As I half-expected, he simply walked through it, failing to close it behind him despite the A/C blasting inside and the hot day without. The clerk was next to the door and she closed it.

No one here holds the door for anyone or expects others to hold it for them. It is frustrating to have doors swing into your face all the time. But it is nice when you hold the door for an older woman carrying groceries and her face lights up with gratitude.

I shrugged off the man’s obliviousness and proceeded with my shopping. As I left the store, the same clerk who had just closed the door to save energy stepped in front of me just as I came to the exit, causing me to nearly run into her; she pushed the door open and threw a piece of garbage, and empty cigarette carton, at the garbage can outside the door, which incidentally had a closed lid. It was the kind of lid you need to push in to get the garbage inside. No attempt to push it open was made on her part, she simply threw the carton, which had no chance of opening the lid, at the can. Naturally, the carton fell to the ground beside the can. I was still standing behind her, my forward movement obstructed. She then walked outside, as if to pick the garbage up and place it gently within the receptacle — but no, what did she do, dear reader? She kicked the carton away from the can into the middle of the sidewalk.

Now, I know that littering is a part of China. New foreign arrivals are sometimes hesitant to pick up this habit, as I was, but they eventually catch on, as I did, because it is a way of fulfilling a childhood fantasy: never having to clean up after yourself. When you open a candy bar or a pack of cigarettes on the street, you simply drop the wrapper right where you are and forget it! Someone else will clean it up, who cares? Shopkeepers throw their trash out into the street to be swept up by the street cleaners. In the beginning I came to accept this as a cultural difference and just went along with it; though I felt guilty at first, I got over it. But it was seeing too many ignorant displays as this woman showed me this morning that made me decide: fuck cultural differences, littering is throwing trash on the ground and nobody wants to walk around on a fucking pile of trash!

This lady has thrown the garbage on the ground and kicked it away when there is a perfectly accessible garbage can right in front of her! In fact, if she didn’t like that one, she could have walked all of five meters to another one! There are trash cans everywhere in the cities, use them!

One thought on “Taking out the trash”

  1. amen. I can’t litter without feeling like a shitty citizen, even if it gets cleaned up by one of countless street sweepers overnight.

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