December 7th – Clean Bin Race Day

Buentoille is a very clean city, mostly because the workers employed in refuse collection have, over the years, negotiated excellent pay and conditions, and they are well funded through general taxation so are numerous. The Great Stink of the summer of 1799 was a turning point, in this respect. For Buentoillitants, the home does not stop at the front door, and there is a general respect for the streets that doesn’t seem apparent in the populations of some other nearby cities. It is because of this general cleanliness that today’s festival is possible; today is Clean Bin Race Day.

Yesterday all the wheelie bins disappeared in Bachtian district, but they reappeared this morning, sparkling and fresh, smelling slightly of pine. Each district’s bins are taken off for industrial cleaning in this way throughout December, and in each district something akin to today’s celebrations takes place, but Bachtian is thought to be where the original wheelie bin racing took place, and it is the only district where the races are properly organised by the Union of Children.

Before 10am, when the races officially begin, there are plenty of children out in the streets, jumping in to the wheelie bins (which arrive at 6am) and getting pushed along at breakneck speeds, peeking out the top. They take turns to race about, or they trap a friend inside and hit the sides with big sticks. By ten, however, everyone is arrayed at the Bachtian Oval, a large paved area built for the purpose of roller skating, but which mainly gets used as a thoroughfare and marketplace. All the children gather at The Point (the position on the track pointed to by the large statue of Emmer Deshan, the inventor of the roller skate) and decide who is pushing and who sits inside.

For fairness and safety, anyone who can’t see over the top of the bin when inside cannot compete, so it is mainly the older children who make up the race duos. Because of the number of contestants (in the high hundreds) there will be several heats, with half of the teams being knocked out in each round. Contestants are welcome to switch team roles between rounds or reasons of stamina, but many specialise and do not switch. At the end of it all, one duo claims the glory and the prize, a bunch of sweets and a large gold sticker which is affixed to their family’s bin, and will remain so until the next year, when it gets washed off.

This year there are two favourites: last years winners, Aewin and Amoll Jenkyns, siblings who’ve put away their rivalries to become a force to be reckoned with. They are a non-switching team, with Amoll pushing and Aewin being pushed. Aewin is a master of weight placement, throwing herself around inside the bin to account for the bend of the track; the other pair are Terri Matan and Derno Svik, a switching team, both well balanced and excellent runners. Last year they went out of the competition early due to injury: jumping out of the bin between matches, Derno managed to bite his tongue. Before this unfortunate incident, the duo had placed in the top five for three years, and it is widely considered that their time to win has come.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Dry Eye Awareness
  • Maple Tree Preparation Day
  • The Festival of the Tricolour