Romans in general don't seem to be big on charity shops, or second hand. Of course, the Church is the charity, and there are big yellow bins on the streets that harvest used clothing for redistribution.1 For non-clothes, however, there's not much in the way of options to recycle. There is, however, an entirely wonderful and very third-world solution. You put your stuff by (not in) the dumpster and someone (often, but not always, raggle-taggle gypsies-o) takes it away. An entirely different approach to the canonically Teutonic "leave your stuff out on the third Tuesday in the month and if nobody takes it away by noon then we, the authorities, will remove it and deal with appropriately". Like that approach, however, it works.

We're about to move, and there are non-clothes that we just don't have space for, or want. Nor did any of the members of Freecycle Roma. So we enlisted the help of a well-muscled young man and schlepped them down to the dumpster. While we were doing that a woman, dressed all in white, making me think, after the event, that perhaps she was a dental hygienist, parked her car in the driveway that we were using to cross the road easily. No problem, there were other gaps we could use. On the way back from carrying the last load to the dumpster, she called me over.

"May I say something," she said, in very good English. "What you're doing is illegal, leaving things by the side of the road."

I laughed, good-naturedly, I hope, and from then on cannot recall the conversation even nearly verbatim. It went roughly like this:

"You're joking, aren't you? It may be strictly illegal, but it is also something that happens every day every where."

"In your country, and I have lived in your country, you wouldn't do this."

"No, because in my country I could call a number and the community would come and collect my things. There is no number to call here."

Things got a little shrill then, as she shouted at me from the safety of her car, and I did my best to maintain my version of a good-natured grin and equable tone, almost guaranteed to add fuel to her fire. Eventually, I simply gave up and left her fulminating, which the well-muscled young man had wisely done at the outset.

What I should have said, it occurred to me moments afterwards, was not "Why don't you just mind your own business, you dental hygienist parked illegally in a driveway," but simply:

"When in Rome …"


  1. 25 February 2018: Actually, those seem to have vanished, and I don't recall seeing any discussion about it. 

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