For whom the garbage truck sings…

When I first came to Taiwan, there were no such things as singing garbage trucks. Garbage sat on the streets, danced by the curbs, and added to the… fragrance, shall we say, of the city.

On the later visit in high school, we were puttering about, and I heard an electronic version of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” cheerily singing down the street.

“Is that the ice cream truck?” I asked my mother. She made an inquiry for me which was met with laughter. The phenomenon of the singing garbage truck was introduced to me. In Taiwan now, no matter the city I’ve visited, yellow garbage trucks sing down the streets and people in the neighborhood trail them to hand up bags of garbage to the riding garbage person in the back.

Poor Beethoven– children in Taiwan must go, “Oh, the garbage song!” when they’re assigned to learn it for the piano now. Another song in the garbage repertoire is one of the two piano pieces my mother used to play, “Silvery Waves.” (Correction:  it is “Maiden’s Prayer”) The music is a bit electronically saccharine (I hate the idea of people getting to know classical music by its ringtone electronic incarnations, but that’s one of the minor travesties of the 21st century I suppose), but it does the job of calling out garbage-wielding grannies and housewives.

We haven’t taken our garbage out in an age, so it’s piled up– and I felt as I was in danger of becoming the poor Shel Silverstein character–“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out” — the fruit flies seem to be cheerfully colonizing our kitchen. So tonight, hearing the faint strains of “Fur Elise”– I dashed through the house and collected the garbage (well, not all of it, I suppose there’s still quite a few random bags of it dangling from kitchen cabinet knobs– but such things happen in group living situations). Then popped out into the night to wait– at least six large plastic bags full of rubbish (right hand) or recycling (left hand) dangling from my fingers. It’s hot. My little Firefox weather bar tells me it’s 86 F (still can’t get used to Celsius, I know– I’m a stupid American).

I stood out and dripped on the sidewalk, the traffic and scooters grumbling by as I fidgeted, admired the lighting of night, and waited on my street. One’s not merely allowed to leave one’s garbage on the sidewalk, but someone did, which showed me that I hadn’t missed our trucks yet. But I couldn’t remember– is it 8:40 or 8:45, and I started the garbage gathering around 8:30, so…

Suddenly I saw a silent yellow garbage truck glide past, turning light on. Abandoning all pretenses of dignity (which I’ve given up all claims to long ago), I dashed down the street in my flapping unbuckled Birks (apologies to my physical therapist who would tut tut), and followed it around our corner where it finally started to play “Fur Elise” as it stopped on a side alley branching off of ours and people handed up their pots of kitchen wet garbage to be dumped in the blue can, and bags of everything else, while the recycling truck stopped behind it and gathered the bottles and paper.

And now, as I type, I can hear the faint strains of “Fur Elise” from yet another garbage truck in the vicinity…


1 Response to “For whom the garbage truck sings…”

  1. 1 Rayshiang
    July 26, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    it is not “Silverly Waves”. It is “Maiden’s Prayer”.

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Free Rice

July 2007
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