London is a very clean city. Sure, it has its fair amount of pollution and big city grubbiness, but the streets are remarkably clean for such a huge bustling place that has relatively few garbage cans (or rubbish bins, for that matter). London has a veritable army of street sweepers ranging from people with brooms and wheelie bins to big street sweeping machines. Despite all of this, there is one thing I consistently find discarded on the sidewalk: banana peels.
Parisians don’t clean up after their dogs, and Londoners drop banana peels like a swarm of unruly clowns. I’m not sure what this means, but probably something quite deep. I’ve mentioned the banana peel phenomenon to several people, and no one seems to have taken much notice. However, if we are to believe cartoons and Vaudeville-style slapstick, banana peels pose a serious threat to public safety, so someone has to stand up and take notice.
So I made a bet. Well it wasn’t really a bet since no money was involved and no one strongly disagreed with me to begin with, it was more of a challenge to myself. This was the bet: I wagered that I could find at least one banana peel on the street on my walk to work and back every day for an entire month. Apart from a break in banana hunting for our trip to Edinburgh, I was successful and only had to actively look for a banana peel on 2 or 3 days. Probably the best part of doing this was watching people notice me taking a photograph of a banana peel and thinking I was completely mental. They may not have missed the mark by a mile. Here is a delightful banana photo montage from my experiment:
Now, we don’t live in Quito, we live in London, several thousand miles away from the nearest Banana plantation. So what’s the deal with all the banana peels? Because nearly all of the banana peels I saw were on the street first thing in the morning, before the street sweepers had a chance to remove them, my theory is this: bananas must crawl stealthily out of their underground lairs to hunt by moonlight and some of them get caught and eaten by predators. Either that or hordes of drunken people emerging from pubs late in the evening find that bananas are a cheap and easy food option that can be found in any local store, and they then drop the peels on the street because they’re too drunk to care. I prefer my first theory.
Bananas seem ever-present in the UK, more so than I ever noticed in the US. At my office and at Maggie's, we have both noticed that with the free fruit baskets that our companies provide, the bananas disappear almost instantly, but apples and oranges linger around for days. The president of my company recently took part in a charity race in which he dressed up as a banana and ran around Hyde park with hundreds of other bananas. The race, clearly named under the provisions of the British Mandatory Usage of Thinly-Veiled Innuendo Law created by an Act of Parliament in 1769, was called “Beat the Banana”. While I do have some pictures of him in his banana suit, I actually want to keep my job, so here are some other participants: