Where ARE the trash cans? — it’s a sign of my swaddled and coddled existence being an American that one of the first frustrations I had in London when I started visiting again regularly in 2000 was the lack of trash cans in certain areas, usually transport-related. I’d be munching on something, perhaps usually some form of fried grease (they do that very well in London, I’ve noticed, and this is no insult — the American style seems to stick to the wrapper too much), and having consumed would seek to throw away the remnants. And then I would be stymied, and would search around for a trash receptacle…a can…a random dumpster even. I must have looked a sight jerking my head around several directions at once in the middle of a fairly crowded King’s Cross or Paddington station, convinced that the trash cans were in fact not only in plain view but were having a great laugh at my expense by running around everywhere that my eyesight wasn’t. I seem to recall solving my initial dilemma by taking the remnants into a nearby restroom, but I can’t even be positive about that. Perhaps trash elves just removed it from my hand without my noticing.

Earnest queries led to the explanation that IRA bombings in the past meant the removal of trash cans, and what was initially a bizarre quirk took on a more sober cast when it came to their absence, and since then I’ve always done my best to eat elsewhere and just show up at a station with nothing to worry about but my possessions and my bodily integrity, both elements of particular value. However, it seems that at least one American argues that it’s not so much the threat of terrorism which removed the cans as it is the desire to be socialized for the better in this, our vale of tears that is the modern world:

“Humans alter habits to meet environments. And (as I discovered) nobody wants to carry an apple core from Tottenham Court to Warwick Avenue?so they wait until they?re above ground. The result is the cleanest, most-attractive public transit system this side of Epcot Center.”

Congratulations, oh Londoners! The truth was that all this time you were in fact moving more in line with Disney’s dead hand controlling the future. No wonder you all visit Florida.

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