06 June, 2006

14. Collecting the garbage: Part 3

When the garbage trolleys are full, the collectors pull them back to one of the many emptying points, where a garbage barge will be waiting. This inlet off the Grand Canal next to Campo San Vidal and almost under the Accademia Bridge was one of the main garbage points, and it was in use almost every morning.

When full trolleys arrive, they are taken charge of by the shore-based assistant who positions them ready for the barge crane operator, who sits in the white cabin at the rear of the barge. The crane picks the trolley up by its big central handle, swings it over the barge and sets it down by its stubby lower handles on two horizontal bars over an opening into the barge's interior.

The crane presses the handle of the full trolley down, opening its double-hinged base which then spills its entire contents into the barge. Lifting the trolley up again closes the double underdoors and the crane plonks the empty trolley back onto dry land, ready to be dragged back into the Venetian alleyways by one of the young women who do that work.

All the operators of the barges and their assistants were men, suggesting that this part of the operation must be classified as much more important and highly skilled. Although it certainly didn't look like it, and why anyone would rather spend their time hanging around a smelly garbage barge when they could be keeping themselves fit wandering with a nice clean trolley through the infinitely interesting back streets of the most beautiful city in the world has me baffled.

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