Dare to drop a gum wrapper on many a New York City street and tempt the rage of a passerby. You know, don’t even think about it, at least not in those chic neighborhoods where real estate prices have revived.
Then there were those signs that I don’t recall noticing for years that declared, appropriately enough, something like “littering is filthy and disgusting, so don’t do it.”
Here in Phnom Penh, you would do well to fuggedaboutit. In fact, flick an orange peel, an empty carton, a fistful of pamphlets onto a byway, and no one bats and eye.
Although some curbs and sidewalks, especially outside relatively expensive housing, are regular cleaned by owners or their employees, others are cluttered with the detritus of daily lives. And not just refuse. Let me just say that very few are restrooms for public use.
Phnom Penh obviously is a city of contrasts. As a matter of fact, what place isn’t?
I have walked blocks in a city where no one walks before finding a crude receptacle outside a store or construction site where I can deposit a crumpled up restaurant receipt or used Kleenex.
(I imagine walking by most folks is out of favor not only because of the discards but also because of numerous obstacles, dirt and traffic along with the availability of inexpensive transportation options. Few are stray dogs and cats, so at least they don’t add to the unpleasantness.)
When I manage to overcome my sense of propriety, I invariably sneak a look around and wince as I engage in a hitherto forbidden activity. It doesn’t feel good.
Woe to the transplant whose force of good habits in regard to trash disposal has proved hard to subdue.
Slowly, I’m adapting, but all too slowly. My pockets are littered with the remains of my days because I simply cannot get used to blithely tossing garbage, however slight it may be, onto a street.
Adapt, I must. I’m working on it.