Friday, November 05, 2004

It's For The Garbage

There are many wonderful aspects to life in Paris, but there are a few that aren't so nice. One thing that I will never get used to is this big brother attitude that someone will clean up your mess. This includes the obvious example of people not cleaning up after the dogs messes, but it also includes the less obvious problem of people throwing their refuse on the street.
I spent my summers on Fire Island New York. It's a 32-mile long barrier beach off of Long Island. When I was growing up, it was against the law to eat on the streets -- except an ice cream cone (ice cream in a cup was not allowed on the street). As a result, you could walk the streets of the Island barefoot and never worry about stepping on broken glass or any other type of garbage (except the occasionally cigarette butt-- which really hurt if the person didn't stomp out the light!). I would never have dreamed of throwing non-bio degradable items on the ground.
On a bigger scale, I grew up in the United States, a county that always had strict rules about where to throw garbage, at least since I've been around. There were fines if you threw an empty can out of the car or dropped a candy wrapper on the ground. I was always conscious of picking up after myself and not leaving a mess. So it's been quite a shock to see the Parisians throw garbage on the ground. The garbage trucks and the street cleaners come by every day so there is this sense that if you just throw it on the ground it will get picked up! I can't tell you the number of times I've seen someone ahead of me eat something and just throw the wrapper on the floor or take paper advertisements (it's a terribly popular way to advertise in Paris) off their car and throw it on the street.

But what is especially alarming to me is that my 4 year old daughter throws her garbage on the floor. For example, when she eats cookies, she'll drop the wrapper on the ground when she's done. She's not proud, and she knows I'll reprimand her if I see her do it, so she'll just casually drop it. It drives me crazy. But I assume she notices that her friends or others do the same thing and nothing happens. I'll keep trying to teach her not to do this, but it's been as difficult as trying to get my son to close his mouth when he chews his dinner -- truly Sisyphean tasks.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:11 PM



I have fond memories of Fire Island and haven't thought about them for a very long time ... until I read your post. I especially remember toting two little ones in my wagon to the beach. Not a care in the world, not a trouble to be had. Total heaven. :o)

# posted by Anonymous : 1:58 PM  

We sold our Fire Island house a few years ago. Boy, my sisters and I miss that place. It was a wonderful place to grow up.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 4:06 PM  

I grew up in Canada, where we usually don't throw things on the sidewalks, besides cigarette butts. However, I'm not sure if that has anything really to do with cleaning up and not dropping garbage all over the place. I think it has to do with the fact that there are hardly any trash bins around. It might have something to do with the bombings in the subway, where the bombs were left in the garbage bins. Or it might not. They don't think there's anything wrong with letting their dogs crap between cars (which makes crossing the street a crap shoot), and I've already seen little boys pissing on the streets twice, and I've only been here 3 months.

What can we say from all of this? The french, who might be superior in all things culinary, and perhaps quite advanced in philosophy and abstract thinking, are shit with hygiene and common sense. Obviously the bathroom is not important to them, otherwise why is it always the most miniscule room in any building, smaller than the broom closet?

# posted by NARDAC : 7:21 PM  

There are so many wonderful parks in Paris and there is never a toilet to be found. Public toilets and more garbage bins would definitely improve things, I agree NARDAC.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 9:23 PM  

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