by Marie Tjernlund
It happened again.
At exactly 5:07am, the garbage truck roared past our open window, its brakes squealing with earsplitting intensity. Lurching to a stop, I could hear the whirl of the mechanism attaching to the recycle bin and lifting it upward. The crash and bang of hundreds of glass bottles landing on the bottom of the truck’s empty bed was deafening. Slamming the recycle bin back to the street, the truck revved its engine and continued down the street to another set of dumpsters. Motorcycles shrieked through the alley at all hours of the night. Street sweepers, their metal bristles scrubbing the cobblestones at 6:00am, sounded like fingernails on an enormous chalkboard.
My fierce American values kicked in. I found myself screaming in my head: “What are they thinking?! Don’t they realize people are trying to sleep?! Why aren’t there laws that stop this sort of activity until a more reasonable hour?”
In an attempt to make some sense to these daily interruptions, I considered the orientation of Italian communalism versus American independence. In this country struggling with high unemployment and limited financial opportunities, could it be a comfort to hear the garbage truck roaring past a window? The driver could be someone’s son and isn’t it wonderful that he is working today. The street sweeper reminds the members of this village that they have pride in the cleanliness of their streets. Ok, the motorcycles are a stretch but maybe this is one of the only ways they feel they can exert their independence. This could truly be an example of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
My context has changed a bit. I admit that I’m still irritated when I am awakened by a sound comparable to a 747 taking off next to my bed at 5:07am every morning, but then again, as I am changing my thoughts, it is changing what I see.