On culture: what I learned from the man who mistook the garbage bin for a sink (Part 1)

He was right in front of me. He had a heavy gold chain with the face of some Asian god around his neck, was balding at the crown of his head but sported longish, slick oily hair up to his neck, peppered with grey. He wore a red polo T-shirt, close fitted to his frame and strung around his neck was some sort of plastic employee tag on his breast pocket, a mini-photo of himself printed on it. He must have been a tour guide, or perhaps a driver. He wasn’t very tall, but despite his apparent age of around 60 he looked somewhat toned and strong, but greasy at the same time. Potentially the type that got into fights if the situation called for it. Grey pants, the typical old-man suit fashion, held up by a belt. I couldn’t remember his shoes. I didn’t look at his feet. But sandals would have been fitting with the look.

I didn’t understand when I first saw. Gold Chains was gargling something in his mouth, and then spat it all into a garbage bin. We were separated by glass window. He was inside the building and I was outside, waiting for a bus. But it’s a garbage bin….not a sink. Why would anyone do that?

Next he took out a small plastic container – I could see there was some liquid, likely water, inside – and started shaking it lightly, like how you would shake a plastic container if you were mixing salad with dressing. Then he opened the container; it had a blue lid. He took out something peach-coloured, flicked it dry, and put it into his mouth. I see now – fake teeth. Once it was firmly plotted on the top of his gums, he took out the second set from the container, flicked it dry again, and plopped that to the bottom of his gums. He put the lid on the container again, shook it to clean it, then took off the blue lid and emptied the liquid into the bin.

I didn’t move. I stood there, watching dumbfounded. I did a mental exercise of taking my phone out of my handbag and video-taping everything as it happened. But 1) my phone battery was gone; 2) I wouldn’t catch it in time and 3) what if he caught me videotaping? Only a glass window separated us – would he come out and beat the crap out of me? I didn’t do anything. I just stood and watched.

Once this exercise was over he left, taking along the plastic container. I approached the glass window so I could get a better look at the aftermath. The silver rim of the garbage bin, about the width of a hand, was dribbled with puddles and droplets of saliva-water. I imagined the soiled, saliva contaminated liquid Gold Chains just dumped into the bin, now resting limply at the bottom of the black plastic garbage bag. Poor cleaning lady. If there were any holes in the plastic bag, she would be doing a lot more work when she collected the trash.

I was staring into the puddles of water and registering what just happened when Gold Chains returned. He brought back the plastic container – now with new liquid – and poured that too into the bin. Then he looked up and saw me looking at him. He quickly looked down again. Then ceremoniously took out a tissue to wipe down the bin’s rim. Leaving the scene like how he found it. Now no one would suspect that at the bottom of the bin was his disgusting, saliva concoction.

To be continued…..go to Part 2.

Featured image credit | Tina Leggio, Creative Commons


15 comments on “On culture: what I learned from the man who mistook the garbage bin for a sink (Part 1)

  1. What is going on here? That isn’t hygienic behaviour at all from Gold Chains. I’ve seen people spitting in garbage bins all the time in Singapore and Malaysia, but no one ever disposing of saliva-drenched water into bins. It seems people like these are trying to get rid of their mess – once they are no longer touching it, it’s no longer their business. Possibly one reason why you still see mounds of garbage bags on Malaysian street corners these days.

    I don’t blame you for staying back the whole time. If he has the mind to do what he did, who knows what he may do if you get on the wrong side of him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nailed it Mabel – yes it’s very unhygienic and saliva-drenched water anywhere but in the sink is gross! I’ve seen the spitting in HK bins sometimes as well – that’s why I have this phobia being near the bins (or even street corners) in any manner – I’m afraid my clothes picking up phlegm cooties…

      That was going to be my next episode – the psyche behind why people do what they do to public facilities. Gold Chains could have easily popped by the bathroom since there were plenty in the building – it was the national airport, one of the best airports in the world after all! But no, to save himself a few precious minutes, I suspect, he decided that the bin was much closer and acceptable to spit and discard liquid waste into. It’s a total disregard for the bin’s purpose, and one step further, a total disregard for the person cleaning it up. In summary, it is an example of extreme selfish behaviour. This selfishness – the once out of sight out of mind thought process which you mentioned – is what fuels behaviour like bin spitting, bin crapping, and to lesser extremes, street garbage pile up.

      You’re very accepting about my standing by behaviour. I’m not proud about it. Truth is I don’t know what I could have done. There’s been stories about people getting beaten up when they tried to film parents letting their kids take a dump in public garbage bins. I think in the moment, I was paralysed by anger, astonishment, and fear.

      I speak up when people say, talk and flash their phones in movie theatres; and other less extreme behaviour. But I didn’t know how to react. I guess one thing would have been to film it!

      Do similar things happen in Australia? If so how do people react to this?


      • I am looking forward to the next part of this story. I have heard of parents letting their kids do Number 2’s in public, never really believed it but now you say it, I really am at a loss for words. In a big city like Taiwan and as you mentioned, the toilet is just a few steps away.

        These incidents don’t happen that often in Australia. You won’t see people spitting on the streets often, they do so in the bins or not at all. However, drinking is a big part of life here and walk down the city on Sunday morning, you’ll want to keep your eyes open to avoid stepping in someone’s regurgitated dinner and drink. The other day I even saw some of that at the tram stop outside my place – not that I live in a drinking part of town. Disgusting.

        That reminds me… Over the last month I remember seeing two people throwing up in mid-afternoon in broad daylight. One was a well-dressed woman chucking by a tree near a busy road, the other a man along a random street corner. Ugh. Everyone just walked by. But how random, and how random we are having this conversation.


  2. That is actually something I would not even find odd anymore. However all those parents and grandparents who misuse the garbage bin or whatever place as a toilet for their children /grandchildren, now thats something which is still terrifying me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not overly surprised anymore either about these things when it I see it in news – the misuse of bins as toilets I’ve only seen on YouTube and not in person, but I know such occurences are not infrequent. I’ve just never encountered something up close and personal – so this bin incident shocked me. It also made me think what I could do in a similar future situation: report it? Publicise it? Chastise the offender? Accept that it’s part of being a cosmopolitan multi-cultural city?

      Sorry you don’t find it odd anymore – do you embrace it as part of the culture or does it still anger you when you see such things?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just try to ignore those things as well as possible. After all I am the foreigner there so I just have to deal with it. In the beginning it shocked me as well and I wondered what to do about it but in the end they wouldn’t care anyways

        Liked by 1 person

  3. While I might not know where in the world you had observed this, I’d wager he’s possibly older than in his 60s. I can tell you when I was growing up in New England, people my grandparents’ age were taught this given that there used to be laws against spitting on the street or dumping personal liquids into the gutters.

    While yes, it would have been “hygenic” to have used a public toilet, I have seen public toilets even scarier than what you witnessed. At least he didn’t take a dump into the bin… That’s at least a plus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was in HK…possibly older or around 60 – it’s really hard to accurately tell people’s age nowadays…
      Civic education is very important indeed.

      I know, thank goodness for not taking a dump! This is not yet the worst and I’m grateful for not having witnessed anything worse than bin spitting…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would suggest checking the local laws (along with local customs) to see whether HK had something similar. Other than that, I just found the responses about the skeeviness of his actions to be… well, odd…. Because I’ve seen some really gross and illegal things to go both into the trash as well as into the drains that makes this man’s look tame by comparison.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Haha, no, gargling into the bin and pouring water isn’t something normal to HK customs, at least to the residents here. It isn’t something you see everyday, and such behaviour is unacceptable in this city. We pride some of the cleanest metros and public facilities in the world. Perhaps not select public toilets….but for big establishments like airport, shopping malls, libraries and government buildings. Curious as to what sorts of illegal things you’ve seen go into the trash/drains and which country are we looking at?
          Interesting perspective raised though – it seems that it’s a matter of degree to how much people are perplexed by Mr Gold Chain’s behaviour – and a matter of comparison to the local daily ongoings. Which is something I hope to touch upon in the next post! Stay tuned!

          Liked by 1 person

        • United States… New England area here. I’ll still go with the man being homeless, but I also know from experience that me being 50, I’m often amused (and sometimes even amazed) the generational (social and even hygienic) differences that can happen in less than 20 years. Also I seem to recall in the mid 80s when I was in Japan, I saw similar as to what this older gentleman was doing and recall (vaguely) laws about keeping specific contaminates from entering into the public sewer systems. Specifically human excesses (saliva being included with other human excrement). But I’m not entirely sure whether it was a carry-over from my being raised in the US or not. I to recall Japan was far neater than the places in the US I’ve lived.

          I’ve seen people here in the New England area dispose of anti-freeze, oil and various other car fluids both into the garbage/sanitation system as well as one landlord that used to pour those things directly into the sewer drains in the mid 90s (something that had been against the law since the 50s). I had one landlord use the recycle bins here for various household flotsam and garbage that should have been heavy hauled/special requests obtained through the local government out of the area here in the 2010s (he was a “slum lord” and would pinch pennies and bend laws whenever and wherever he could).

          Oh I will… And me being the opinionated git, will no doubt have something to share 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  4. “Culture”? This is no culture imo. Culture is too beautiful a word for such savage behavior. THANKS to these selfish people, “Chinese” has become a symbol of selfishness and indecency everywhere in the world. And Hong Kong people are being generalized so negatively and are being regarded as the same as these savages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly I cannot disagree with regard to the symbolism that “Chinese”, in certain countries, has come to mean. And yes, because we share the same skin colour and race oftentimes HK people, myself included, have been generalised and stereotyped especially when traveling abroad.


  5. Pingback: On culture: what I learned from the man who mistook the garbage bin for a sink (Part 2) | Pixie Dust Beach

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