Thursday, September 09, 2004


One of the disadvantages of having baskets on your bicycle is that people mistake them for rubbish bins. You'd think it was fairly obvious that a bicycle basket is not a rubbish bin, but no, I can tell you right now that to some people it is not obvious at all. They see a basket, and they dump their rubbish in it.

I've always wanted to catch someone doing this to my bicycle basket, and today I did.

I went for a swim, and on the way back, as usual, decided that I was too wiped out to cook so I'd eat out. I went to the usual almost-but-not-quite fast food family restaurant that is the only halfway decent restaurant between the pool and home. There is a large bicycle parking section next to the carpark outside the restaurant.

When I came out, feeling satisfied and somewhat sleepy from eating too much, I couldn't find my bicycle at first because some kind person had tidied up the bicycles and moved mine to a different section. When I spotted it, there was a woman standing next to it. Her bicycle was the one next to mine. She was going through her bag and dumping all the sweet wrappers, used gum, and other rubbish she could find into the basket of my bicycle.

I walked over, wondering how to react to this. Was I going to go apeshit? Was I going to berate her? What was I going to do? I wasn't sure. But as I walked over I started wanting to laugh. I knew this was not the appropriate reaction so I stifled it. Instead, I unlocked the bicycle.

In my peripheral vision I could see she had frozen with shock. She hadn't expected that the only other person to come into the bicycle parking lot would be the one with the bicycle next to hers, which she was so blithely using as a tip. I imagine it was particularly appalling that this person was a foreigner.

After unlocking the bike I gathered all the rubbish out of the basket, sloooowly, and took it over to the rubbish bin, which was about three meters away. Then I came back and looked her in the eye in a friendly way. She cringed and bowed her head.

"Is that all?" I asked politely. "Is there anything else?"

She shook her head, still with her head down. She looked as though she wanted the proverbial hole in the ground to open and swallow her up.

"Oh, good," I said cheerfully. "I'm off, now. Osaki ni!" (This is the polite thing to say when you leave before other people do.)

She didn't answer. She just stood there with her head bowed.

I rode off, feeling rather pleased. I've always wondered what I'd do to anyone I caught using my bicycle basket as a rubbish bin. Finally I'd had the opportunity to find out, and it was wonderful. I didn't need to do anything except be excruciatingly polite and nice.

I don't think I've ever seen anybody looking quite so ashamed of themselves.


SithRat said...

You totally rule - I would:

a) have hidden until she'd gone, an account of a general lack of any idea how to handle the situation without lowering myself to swearing and shouting

b) have sworn and shouted.

You're an inspiration!