Taking photos of rubbish bins. I should be saying garbage cans, but living abroad has permanently altered my vocabulary. No, wait. The bigger question is, when did I turn Japanese? That is, when did I start taking photos of anything?
I noticed that Japanese tourists would sometimes take photos of these pails, particularly during a visit to Yellowstone National Park (USA) in the late 1990s. First, they asked my parents if they could take my picture – still waiting for royalties to this day – and then, they carried on, intently focusing on inanimate objects. I didn’t know why they had such a fascination with waste – the rubbish bins, not me – at the time, but there’s a good chance that, due to the 1995 sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo metro, all of the street bins were removed from the city. You can still find places to hurl your refuse, at convenience stores, by vending machines or ehem,
bike baskets, or if you’re really misanthropic, the incredibly useful lockers dotted throughout Japan’s train stations.
The back story is appreciate, but that doesn’t look like Japanese script in the photo above. Indeed, this was my polite ode to those tourists, with a catch. In 2007, I visited Dhaka, Bangladesh for a short time. As usual, one of the priorities was to eat. Another was to wander for hours. In the heart of this chaotic capital lies the Mughal-era Lalbagh Fort, a tranquil place for Bengali youth to understand how the hours seemed like minutes, all while drinking obsolete soda.
Here’s where this post title comes into play. The can says “USE ME.” That’s awfully direct. But if we’re not using it in the first place – and we’re littering instead – then that means we don’t have good manners. Would you be more inclined to throw something away if a “PLEASE” was inserted into the command? If you said yes, that’s…bizarre. Or, should we all do as many people in Japan do, in other words, avoid eating on the street, taking our trash with us and somehow end up with arguably the cleanest (on the street, that is) country in the world? Don’t think too hard now.