The voice of some, crying in the wildernessBy
The luxurious abandon of life here, the liberation from civilization’s leg-irons that makes some tourists claim that “Italians really know how to live” (I’ve heard them say this), can be seen in almost every corner of life in this city. Especially our special little niche. Dogs. Vaporettos. I’ve ranted about them many times and will most likely continue. The Phrygian Cabirian Mysteries must be easier to understand than certain behavior around here.
But I haven’t said a whole lot about garbage, except for occasional mentions of the people who put their bags out when acqua alta is predicted, so the bags float around the streets and out to sea; or those who put them out at night, or on Saturday afternoon to wait for Monday morning’s collection, thus giving the gulls plenty of time to rip them apart and throw their contents everywhere.
Where garbage is concerned, I’m going to curtail my own little diatribe and cast it in the vox of the populi, as noticed recently here and there. I am not the only one voxing objections, so this is a positive sign of something, I guess. But however many voices may be either muttering or yelling, there is a collective passivity which meets them with the density of the air in a vacuum. Shout all you wish; indulge in the intermittent scream; try your hand at a banshee howl or the ungodly screeching of fisher cats (Martes pennanti); your only response will be a sublime indifference approaching Nirvana.
Nirvana: “A place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry and the external world.” The external world means everywhere that isn’t inside my four walls. In a word, Venice!!
Here is the text, for the record, Your Honor, of Article 9 D.P.R. 915/82, translated by me:
Prohibition of abandoning garbage: It is forbidden the uncontrolled abandoning, dumping or depositing of garbage in public areas or private areas that are liable to public use. In the case of a breach, the mayor, when sanitary, health or environmental reasons subsist , shall decree an ordinance, with a deadline, for the cleaning-up of the area(s) at the expense of the responsible parties. By the terms contained in Law 10 of May 10, 1976, N. 319, and successive modifications, it is forbidden to dispose of any trash of any sort in either public or private waters.”
So is the old computer sitting on the fondamenta because you’re forbidden to throw it into the canal? Certainly not. Apparently the punitive “sanctions of the law” in this case means that the guilty party has to pay to have it removed. Which they could have arranged for free by calling the garbage collection hotline and making an appointment. But that takes time and thought. Time — don’t have it. Thought — don’t need it.
So let’s review: According to the exasperated residents of Calle Vechia, the bags of garbage not theirs have to be taken to the bins. But according to the bins, the garbage isn’t allowed into them.
This leaves one alternative: Do what the city says and put your bag of garbage on your own personal doorstep of the structure where you live before 8:00 AM, and the collector will come by and pick it up and throw it into his big rolling metal box and take it away. I can’t understand why so many people seem to find this system so obnoxious. You’d think they’d been told to make bricks without straw.
So who are these bag-bestrewing malefactors? They can’t be the much-reviled tourists, because they don’t have bags of garbage. They have beer bottles and little plastic ice-cream cups and spoons and Coke cans and things that would fit easily into the bins. (Ignore the fact that these objects often don’t get that far, but are left on the nearest windowsill, because the bins are few and inconveniently placed.)
A tourist didn’t lug that computer to the water’s edge. And tourists don’t sneak out with bags of garbage and leave them in dark alleys.
You see where I’m going. By process of elimination, the principal offenders are Venetians. Why? We’re back to First Principles: It’s because being told that something is forbidden excites a primal urge to do that very thing and nothing else. And lest we suppose the Old Venetians in the Great Old Days were any more virtuous, the hoary stone tablet over the door to what was a convent garden near the church of Sant’ Andrea de la Zirada tells the same old story. Don’t do this, don’t do that — the excellent administrators of the city were refreshingly precise, and they made the punishments very clear. They even carved it in stone, as it were.
And yet I’d be willing to bet that the Old Venetians, who hadn’t thought of anything that day more urgent than whether to fry or grill the sardines, would immediately have felt an overwhelming impulse to run out and start to blaspheme, play cards, throw dice, or at least to tumultuar and strepitar, which basically means create an unholy racket.
People are just made that way.