Japan: The Lonely Japanese Milk Carton
An Alien Cow Juice Container Dropped from the Sky?
At breakfast that morning, from the window overlooking the street, I had watched with admiration as the two elderly road sweepers painstakingly, fastidiously, swept every inch of the pavement outside of the park opposite my hotel, removing every piece of litter, every fallen leaf, and leaving the pavement spotlessly clean.
Now, Japan is noted for its cleanliness, but Yokohama especially so. The streets practically glisten and shine and litter is non existent. Imagine my surprise therefore, when later that afternoon, as I returned to my hotel through the same park, I spied, lying on the pavement in splendid isolation and unashamedly visible to all passers-by, a solitary empty milk carton.
Where could it have come from? Was it dropped from the sky by a passing UFO, whose alien inhabitant had tossed it out of the window, having just quenched his thirst with a pint of best cow juice? Possibly, as God knows, no self respecting Japanese would drop litter on the pavement. Then again, perhaps the culprit was simply an inconsiderate foreign tourist?
Anyway, there it was, lying in the middle of a large expanse of pavement, all alone, with no other litter of any description to keep it company. I stared at it for a moment, and rubbed my eyes in disbelief. There was a young lady to my left who had also seen it, and was like me, in a mild state of shock and unsure how to approach the problem. She timidly cast a glance in my direction, looking at me expectantly, like a damsel in distress. What was she to do in this previously un-encountered situation?
In a flash, I knew what was required. I gallantly stepped down from my white horse, gave my silver armour a quick brush with my gauntlet and fearlessly stepped forward to accept the challenge. A deft sweep of my left hand and the offending article was firmly in my grasp; and the pavement once again, as far as the eye could see in every direction, clear of all debris.
The young lady smiled and bowed in gratitude. I smiled back then strode off (not rode off – the horse thing was only a joke) to find the nearest litter bin. I looked left, then right, up and down the pavement. Nothing. I wandered into the park and looked around, but there were no litter bins there either. I had never thought about it before, but now that I did, the only place that I had ever seen litter bins in Japanese towns were outside of convenience stores (Lawson or Family Mart for example), or next to the ubiquitous street vending machines.
Paying the Price for Gallantry
There was neither a convenience store nor a vending machine nearby so what was I to do? Drop it behind a bush? Casually sweep it under a parked car? No, that wouldn’t do at all. So I carried on walking towards my hotel, which was quite some distance away, gingerly holding my piece of litter, whilst scanning the surrounding area in vain for a refuse container.
Upon arriving at the hotel, I still had not found anywhere to correctly dispose of it. So, with the carton in my right hand, and my hand thrust out before me, I entered the hotel lobby. There was the young lady from the park again. She laughed when she saw that I had been unable to dispose of the carton, and still had the thing in my hand.
I could not see a rubbish bin in the hotel lobby either, and so, with a nod to the hotel porter, and a purposeful stride, I approached the lifts, punched the button for my floor and waited.
My room was on the 16th floor, so that is where we headed; my milk carton and I. The other people in the lift, out of kindness, pretended not to notice the dirty milk carton in my hand, or the pungent smell of sour milk emanating from it.
For what seemed like an eternity, we continued upwards, the lift stopping at almost every floor. Each time the lift stopped more people got in. Each time the new arrivals would wince at the unexpected odour, and then straighten their faces and pretend that it was quite normal for lifts to smell of sour milk.
At last the lift arrived at the 16th floor. I hurried down the corridor to my room, and unlocked the door. Once inside, and with a sigh of relief, I was at long last able to dispose of the lonely, smelly little milk carton, dropping it into the waste bag in the bin underneath the sink in the bathroom, and tying the ends of the bag to trap the unwelcome smell inside.
Perhaps next time I see a damsel in distress, I won’t be quite so gallant.
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