Operation Glasshole™ Concluded

Yesterday, I donned protective gloves and wading boots, and finally finished cleaning up one short stretch of the Düssel river. Here's the video: 

As you can see, another 100 or so bottles, to add to the 100 or so I had fished out before. Plus, this round brought us:

  • A steak knife
  • 7 more bicycle locks
  • a pair of sunglasses
  • one (1) women's boot
  • a 1.5- meter length of rusting steel re-bar
  • a disc-shaped battery-operated IKEA light fixture, complete with rotting batteries
  • 5 plastic bags or pieces of plastic sheeting
  • 1 more umbrella
  • 1 section of metal grille
  • several plastic cups
  • three metal rods and/or picture frame elements
  • one laminated official notice on white A4 paper from the City of Düsseldorf which was formerly attached to the bridge, warning people not to lock their bikes to it until 16 October 2016 because of bridge maintenance.
  • what appeared to be one-half of a foam soccer ball
  • a still-stoppered fake mother-of-pearl perfume bottle
  • several parts of an ironing board
  • a few unclassifiable pieces of metal and plastic which looked like auto or machine parts

I displaced at least 10 juvenile and 2 adult spiny-cheeked crayfish from inside various bottles.

At the end of the day after making several tours of inspection, I could see no more junk. There were still hundreds of bottle caps, but I have my limits. One couple passing by asked me whether I was fishing for eels. After I was done, I had a chat with the Slavic woman who runs the convenience store next to the bridge. She called me "poor guy", and apparently assumed my clean-up operation was a form of punishment. I informed her that I had just gotten fed up and decided to clean up the river. She said "Well, that's nice of you, but let me tell you, people are just going to keep throwing stuff into it. I sit here all day and watch them."

I said that almost all the stuff was covered in silt, which made it seem as if it had been there a long time. She said that, on second thought, that she hadn't seen much littering lately: "There was a group of people who were doing most of it who moved away." She made a certain gesture indicating what sort of people they were, but I couldn't really decipher it. It sort of looked like a mixture of air-bottle glug-glug (drunks) mixed with some kind of arm-waving. Possibly a Nazi salute. But I can't be sure.

This gives me some hope that most of the garbage came from short bursts of antisocial behavior years ago; possibly a gaggle of winos colonizing the riverbank for a few days, throwing their empties (mostly 200 ml flasks of Stepanoff vodka) into the stream. And then, of course, the garbage was passively tolerated by thousands of local residents who crossed the bridge over the years, wrinkling their noses in disapproval but doing nothing about it.

One mystery that's provoked plenty of discussion on my Facebook page is the bicycle locks. A few of them had obviously been cut, but most of them seemed to be intact. Which raises the question of why anyone would throw what appears to be an intact bicycle lock into the stream? My only guess is that some people steal bikes by picking the locks. Then they reattach the lock and throw it in the river, presumably to get rid of evidence. It seems like a fairly ludicrous precaution, given that local police don't even try to solve individual bike thefts. But who knows?

Any guesses about this mystery?

17 thoughts on “Operation Glasshole™ Concluded

  1. @Andrew

    My guess – just a guess – to solve the mystery of the empty bicycle locks is, that in point 12 you mention an official notice from the City of Düsseldorf, warning people not to lock their bikes to the bridge.

    So I guess people oversaw that sign, it was vandalized and /or a dozen “forgotten”, stolen etc. bicycles in various stages of decay (nothing unusual) were still chained to the bridge when the workers came along and used a cutting disc on the locks, the bikes and the bridge railing, chucking the debris into the river.


  2. Perhaps I win the chance of plugging st completely out of topic (but not in a general sense, sadly), such as:

    I (heart) the Internet: It’s like pulling away some furniture sometimes, to redo the wall, and finding some cherished, long lost item behind it.

    Like this B&W gothic impressionistic horror movie fanpiece, knee-deep in verbal blood, and a brilliant copy at that. L’ntérieur!! L’ntérieur!! Every bit of deco picked with utmost care, the studio decorators must have had a field day. Mr. Alison’s watchpiece alone…

    But what makes this beauty flick a true gem, IMHO, is the hinging of the horror of fantasy onto the real horror and treachery of real war – of WWI, or some other big one of the Balkans – and that, even worse, of a war yet to come.

    15 years of internment, to envy those thousands who died in the battle they took you prisoner from. Even the relentlessly thrashing steel beams of the coal-fired Locomotive pounding its way into the night are reminiscent of the burning and pulping of humans in that horrific slaughter, and never mind the military politeness with which you deliberate the shredding of your enemy: trauma plus a personal score to settle, and more than one of each. Even the compliments are sinister.

    EDGAR G. ULMER’S: THE BLACK CAT (1934) “Are we both not… the living dead?”

    The phone is dead. Do you hear that, Vitus? Even the phone is dead.

    Are the guns still working?


    From back in the Pre Nazi Time days of the Orient Express, when travel was free, but adventurous, roads could not be trusted, and women had to be slight of build. Where Dracula battles Frankenstein’s Monster, Eastern Europe and the Visegrad were always scary, strange – and not easily conquered.

    Both cast and settings of these movies back then were notably and weirdly international, with Germans just as notably scarce. Perhaps the Torch & Pitchfork Villagers in Frankenstein? Note the telepathic servants, too.

    So, Herr Poelzig has retired…. eh?

    – and bags to whoever spots Boris “what a sixpack” Karloff first. AFTER the opening credits.

    I have returned – after fif-teen years, I have returned.

    It’s been a long time, Hjalmar – the years have been kind to you…

    It’s the red switch, isn’t it, Hjalmar? The red switch that ignites the dynamite…

    Was his perhaps one of the first times the leading madman played that Bach piece on a church organ, just to display his mind? And I wonder where I have heard that second black-cat-theme melody lately…

    I see the nick of “Hjalmar Poelzig” is still up for grabs… 🙂


  3. used a cutting disc

    If you believe the demonstration videos on Youtube, most bicycle locks are easily defeated by someone who knows the tricks to open them. That could explain the still-intact bicycle locks in the brook.


  4. Just noticed someone tweeting about the Nobel Literature Prize! My two farthings, after Dario Fo and what’s her first name Jelinek, who cares anymore, the Prize has become a joke anyway. Last deserving recipient IMHO was V.S. Naipaul in 2001 and that was only because of the shock of 9/11.

    Philip Roth is a very good writer, but not as good as the late John Updike, whom the Nobel Committee did not award because he was prone to having his characters engage in politically incorrect musings.

    Want a recommendation from me out of the stable of pre-PC authors? Pick up a novel by Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz (awarded 1988), I promise you won’t be disappointed.


  5. True – but only if the worker (swigs beer bottle and chucks it – naw!) *burp* has the patience, or wants to show off. I’ve wielded cutting discs, they go through normal bicycle frames like butter; esp. the big professional ones. Lock chains are harder / jump around. Work fast, work efficient, have more free time.

    And if you’re out to steal a bicycle, and carefully pick a lock, why not take it with you? Part of the package, and anyway you’ll need one now.

    Question: were the intact locks still closed (cut bike frame) or open (picked)?

    Of course some very meticulous and / or autistically disturbed bicycle thieves could pick a lock, then close it again carefully, and then chuck into the river. Just to keep the universe in balance (and throw you off their track).


  6. V.S. Naipaul? I am impressed. And intrigued. That’s the first time I’ve heard someone mention him as a reader.

    Not being a regular lit. prize follower in any way, after Kenzaburo Oe the name that stuck out for me personally was Günter Grass, and that hurt, so I chucked it. The next thing I remember is me standing in an empty student coffee bar and V.S. Naipaul coming over the radio as winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, so I asks the barlady: Heard of him? Blank face. I recommended, drank up and left.

    Indeed, only read “A House for Mr Biswas” myself – and that is the antique version of a description of what we’re up against – and what they’re up against – an endless struggle to overcome something that cannot be overcome in the way that is being tried, because it’s a treadmill.

    But why 9/11?


  7. But why 9/11?

    9/11 came as a shock to the Islamophilic “intellectuals” that temporarily knocked them out of their worldview. In that situation, Naipaul’s travelogues “Among the Believers” (1981) and “Beyond Belief” (1998) came in handy to people frantically searching for a compass to help them navigate the Islamic world.

    The first of these two books was written just after the Islamic revolution in Iran, the second a few years before the planes struck the WTC and the Pentagon. Naipaul has a unique talent for isolating the timeless and persistent elements even when writing topically (apart from being a master stylist, something he has in common with Updike). Hence his books are well worth reading even today.

    I suppose I was being unfair to some of the other Nobel Prize winners, for example Hertha Müller probably deserved to win it, too.


  8. Thanks for that. I’ll put them on my list.
    (You have a list? Only a very slight one, Sir!)

    In the immortal words of Dylan, the poet (and newlyborn Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate):

    Darkness at the break of noon
    Shadows even the silver spoon
    The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
    Eclipses both the sun and moon
    To understand you know too soon
    There is no sense in trying.

    Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
    Suicide remarks are torn
    From the fools gold mouthpiece
    The hollow horn plays wasted words
    Proved to warn
    That he not busy being born
    Is busy dying.

    As some warn victory, some downfall
    Private reasons great or small
    Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
    To make all that should be killed to crawl
    While others say don’t hate nothing at all
    Except hatred.

    Disillusioned words like bullets bark
    As human gods aim for their marks
    Made everything from toy guns that sparks
    To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
    It’s easy to see without looking too far
    That not much
    Is really sacred.

    While preachers preach of evil fates
    Teachers teach that knowledge waits
    Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
    Goodness hides behind its gates
    But even the President of the United States
    Sometimes must have
    To stand naked.

    Although the masters make the rules for the wise men and the fools, I do hope quoting Dylan (he’s the New Nobel Prize Laureate!) is not hate crime, although his words (and poetry they are) drip with hate – and reading them now, half a century later, it’s unbelievable how they strike home in describing the state of affairs still today – and that’s including hate speech:


    Spot on.

    I’d love to paste the whole thing here, but it’s far too long – so read all, ye and ye shall see.

    Hmmm. Was his nomination one last upheaval before prostration, perhaps? Oh no! What have we done!

    Or just a diversion.

    Perhaps both.


  9. Uh, shouldn’t that be: Dylan’s words drip with hatred?

    And btw shouldn’t that be hatred speech anyway?

    Ach, never mind the intricacies.


  10. Interesting theories. As for me, I just can’t imagine city workers throwing locks into the river. They’re fucking Germans, for God’s sake. If they’re cutting locks away, they’re going to have a plan for doing something with them. Also, they live in Düsseldorf, too, so why would they needlessly foul their own nest? And commit crimes in front of their co-workers and supervisors?

    If you cut the bike frame, that only solves the bike-frame issue. The lock would remain locked to the bridge element you locked it to. Also, cutting a bike frame has to drastically reduce the take from the theft.

    I’m pretty sure the locks were picked, and then re-locked and thrown away. That’s what I would do, on the off chance you were pulled over. You, an 80-IQ 19-year-old Georgian petty criminal, might be able to convince the cops that you owned that € 1500 Bulls cross-bike which you were casually riding across the city at 2 AM. But what if you couldn’t open the lock you had with you because you don’t have the key or don’t know the combination? That might arouse the suspicions of even the laziest copper.


  11. Dear solvent, the purpose of language is to cleave neighbor from neighbor and make the stranger betray himself as soon as he opens his mouth.


  12. Some of the best free entertainment in my city is the semi-annual bicycle auction. Throughout the year, city workers remove abandoned bicycles from bridge railings, fences and lampposts. (Whether they cut open the locks or pick them is something I don’t know.) These bikes are then refurbished in one of the workshops where long-term unemployed people work under the supervision of skilled tradespeople. Every bicycle in the auction is at least operable, some are good quality.

    The city worker holding the microphone as he moves business along at a brisk pace has found his calling. Speaking thick dialect, he cracks up the audience with snarky asides and fast patter just like an experienced conferencier in Vegas.

    I snagged a Peugeot twelve-speed including certificate of ownership for fifty euros, a bargain (if not a steal!).


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