Sunday, September 15, 2013

An experiment on Trash Day

Saturday was Trash Day.  It happens every September in districts across Budapest.  Our district had Trash Day on Saturday.  It's the day each year when everyone can put anything on the street to be collected by the garbage guys and hulled to the dump.  Great for us city-dwellers.  The night before these men get up before the rest of us, you can see piles of boxes, wooden boards, clothes, toys, furniture, old suitcases, just about everything Americans would put in a garage sale mixed with things that look like they're part of a demolition.  Trash Day.

We added our IKEA boxes that once held a couple new furniture items.  Our pile wasn't anything special.  But other piles end up being a free-for-all in which some people find treasures.  All these piles across the district get pilfered through by local residents and some no-so-local residents.  The not-so-local residents, Roma who come from who knows where in Hungary, sit by these piles guarding them and charging a few hundred forint to whoever wants to take that old couch, kid's shoes, or mattress with a big brown stain in the middle.  The pile doesn't belong to these "guards", but they'll sit in a chair that someone threw out in the pile, with their money belt wrapped around their wastes, waiting for someone to be interested in an item.  Why do they think they have the right to charge people for someone else's trash?  I haven't figured that out yet.

So this year Will did an experiment.  He looked at a guarded pile of trash.  With interest he sorted through the rubbish, acting like he was in the market for a new-to-him piece of wood or table or lamp.  When he found a small light-weight type writer, he simply picked it up to take it away.  The "guard" lady scolded him in Hungarian that this was her pile.  He needed to pay her.  His response... No.  And he walked away with the type-writer and the lady frustrated at him.  But he's a foreigner.  He can get away with it.  It's the old man who obviously doesn't have a lot of money who gets run off by the "guards", and it's a bit frustrating for the foreigner to watch.  Those are the moments we wish we spoke Hungarian to tell them off.

The type-writer went into another trash pile on the walk home, but it is an interesting phenomenon.  What causes these "guards" to take power over someone else's garbage?  Do people really pay them for it, knowing that it really never belonged to them?  Are Hungarians OK with people taking ownership of garbage that was never really theirs?

Any Hungarian reading this want to give us your take on the subject?  Would definitely be interested...


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  2. HI! Hungarian here! About the garbage ownership, no we are not OK with that but you can't do much about it. They are like the "untouchables", they don't have any right to guard the piles, but if you dont want to get into a heavy argument with shouting and finding yourself surronded by the whole family of "guards", you just let is go. I don't think people often pay for items, they just guarding the piles till a rusty van comes and takes the valuable items. I don't like it either to see the once peacful streets overrun by hords of "owners" and the garbage too, if has to be a better system for this.

    1. Kösönöm szépen for the input Péter. Good insight.