Saturday, March 16, 2013

Love For Sale, Part 2: Crime & Self-recrimination

Someone should really stop them
I headed back to the Accademia Bridge late yesterday afternoon, still not quite believing--in spite of ample ugly evidence to the contrary--that the lock-selling business could be lucrative enough to support the three vendors I saw doing it on Wednesday.

I arrived to find no fewer than six of them plying the trade yesterday, and I'd barely began to absorb that number--an even half dozen!--when one of them actually made a sale.

What would vandals be without their indelible markers?
"Ten?" I heard a man respond incredulously to one of the salesmen's approach and I expected that he and his sweetheart would continue on their way. But whatever the salesman countered--which I didn't hear--stopped the two lovebirds in their tracks.

Now I was incredulous: How could they? Why would they? And while the business transaction moved quickly and furtively along I shot photos (also furtively), still not believing for some reason that those two tourists who, after all, looked sensible enough, would go through with something so-- Well, you fill in the blank. 

They took the marker, they stepped to the rail a few feet from me; I held the camera at arms length out over the canal and blindly snapped another pic, still not really believing that they'd actually attach that large lock to the bridge--and now also beginning to wonder vaguely, Should I stop them?

If I tried to intervene should I be indignant, should I step in as a representative of The Law and tell them it was illegal? Was it illegal, the lock-attaching part? I wasn't actually sure. Should I speak in Italian? English? I thought they were now speaking French but I couldn't hear them well enough to really know. Should I explain how ugly the damn things were? Wasn't that obvious?

Should I ask them if Venice was their only stop on this vacation or, like the Huns before them, were they planning to vandalize other cities as well?

No, I could simply talk to them as one rational person to two other rational people... unless, really, it was none of my business.

Perhaps it was none of my business... I did nothing, believing up to and even beyond the moment they attached the lock that they wouldn't attach the lock.

And, yes, as Susie remarked in her comment on the original post, they then threw the keys into the canal. I should at least have stopped that.  

I left the bridge after that and walked around, took some more photos, and grew more convinced that I really should have said something to them. I could have been polite about it. I didn't need to address them as gli asinini (to use that favorite term of the original Pinocchio) which part of me believed them to be acting like.

And so I learned that there were six men selling locks on that bridge for a reason, and that business, obviously, is not bad at all. And that, yes, it's disappointing sometimes the dumb things that people will do. But more troubling to me, finally, was what I didn't do.

For Part 1 on this topic:

And for other posts on the same subject:

And for the eventual solution to this problem:

The hard sell--but it didn't work
Hard bargainers: the boy didn't get the deal he wanted and walked off empty-handed


  1. Those fellows are out there 'loud and clear' carrying on what is no doubt an illegal activity, and nothing is done about them. Another blind eye is turned. What in heck is the matter with those in authority?

    Sad, sad, sad.


    1. I'm curious about the guys who sell those things now: I always assumed each was an independent operator, but having recently passed through Campo Maria Formosa & seen what appeared to be a convention of those guys I realized all of them may be working for someone else. How does that work, I wonder?

      When I wrote the caption that "someone should stop them" I was actually thinking about the tourists from buying them, as no one seems willing to stop people from selling them. But I suppose no one will stop either group from doing either.

  2. I just realised "those in authority" is an oxymoron ...

    Yes, it's Cranky-pants again.

    1. You meant "those shirking authority"? Or "profiting by shirking authority"?

  3. I can't blame you, Steve. It's so hard to speak rationally to these people when you are so incensed. You should be able to find out what the legal situation is. Then, at least, you can tell them they will be breaking the law if they attach a lock - no point telling them after. OR you could invest in a pair of bolt-cutters. I hear that scrap metal is very valuable these days, especially brass.
    Yes, you can find 'gangs' (in the nicest possible sense) of these men (never women) who sell bags, sunglasses, toys etc taking a rest in quiet areas of Venice. You would think that they'd be in competition with each other, but I think that they are all in the same boat, so they help each other. The police could round them up in an instant if they wanted to, but they seem to prefer to give them a head start and chase them and pick up the bags that they drop.

    1. I think you're right, I should find out what the law is about the locks themselves. I suppose you can't expect tourists to think long-term about the place they're visiting or consider questions about who exactly will remove all these locks some day & who will pay for it--but it would be nice if they did.

      I also thought the vendors were simply sympathetic to other sellers--or that, as I've heard about here in Italy, much of a small village might have been brought to a foreign country to work (as, for example, an entire village from Emilia-Romagna was brought to the US to mine coal in the early 20th C by a coal company). But I don't know what the actual situation is. Who is the "boss" of these sellers? In the case of the African purse sellers I've heard it's the Mafia.

  4. Steve, we may guard the bridge together at Easter!

  5. I'm sure these guys' presence at the bridge was discussed and agreed upon somewhere, it's hardly a...private commercial initiative.

    1. Yes, I'm sure you're right--though it was nicer when I could imagine each of them stocking up in the big store on the mainland where everyone here goes to buy cheap items (which I've never been to and whose name I forget).