Friday, March 13, 2009


Someone once said to me, "We are like Pavlov's dogs here in Oaxaca, Mexico. Every bell and whistle develops a response."

He was right.

The gas truck rattles. The corn-on-the-cob man calls out on his nightly rounds, "Ehh-LOOO-tay." The knife-sharpener uses a distinct whistle to let you know his sharpening skills are near. Need water? Wait till you hear, "Aaaaaa-gguuuaaaa."

The same is true for trash.

The waste collection truck comes by in the morning. Sometimes early. Sometimes later. (Time isn't quite so precise at this latitude.) While hanging off the back of the truck, the worker in the back rings the bell while the driver pulls over to the side of the cobblestone road. Folks from the neighborhood come running down the street with their bags of waste. They throw their bags in the back of the truck. Some materials get separated: the driver loads cardboard up top; the helper gleans metal into a bag hanging off the side of the truck. The truck rattles on to its next stop.

Ring the bell. Bring the trash.

Some people aren't trained so quickly; I just heard a story of a family that chronically misses the bell. They have gotten in the habit of getting in their car with their trash and driving after the truck (they know its route). Seems like a curious [ahem: terrible] use of time and gas, but hey, whatever gets the job done.

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