Clank Clank Clank

July 24, 2000

The ding dong of the ice cream man, the ring ring of the dried squid vendor, the bing bong of the combination broom-feather duster-toilet scrubber salesman, the honk honk of a car, the vroom vroom of the racing moped driver, the clickety clank of a broken taxi’s tailpipe, the chug chug of an overstuffed pickup truck, the ting tong of the fruit cart, bing ting of the bicycle bell, and the woof woof of the street dogs arguing again over their meager scrounged dinner, the bark bark of my dog who has never and will never like the sound of bells, the cheers of children playing soccer in the park, pieces of floating conversation, honkahonkahonka of one ice cream vendor who should be going ding dong, beautiful Thai country music from a radio, and at night live singing from a picnic bench across the street; sometimes accompanied by guitar, but mostly only with the clinking of bottles and the banging of hands……these are the sounds that filter into my windows.

Live in the240700k1.jpg neighbourhood long enough, buy on the street often enough, and I am told you can read the air like a billboard. The sounds from the vendors are specifically designed to let people know which items are currently for sale in front of their houses. I can not read the air but I like these sounds no matter how strange the sights are which accompany them.

To make matters even more interesting, in my neighbourhood exists the strangest sound of all. It is my favourite sound and to this day I have never seen the sight that goes with it. This sound goes Clank clank, Clank clank, Clank clank, and sounds like a piece of metal being hit against another piece of metal.

This sound usually begins in the late afternoon and continues all night long. Even more intriguing, this sound MOVES. Sometimes it is directly in front of my house and then within two or three minutes I hear it from a distance. Between interludes it grows fainter and eventually fades away, only to return later240700k2.jpg on.

In the beginning I counted the clanks. I wanted to see if the clanks had something to do with the time. To me Clank clank Clank clank always equaled four. Looking at my watch, four made no sense. I also knew the Thai system of telling time divides the clock into four periods. You begin counting from six. Seven in the morning becomes one, eight in the morning becomes two and it gets more confusing from there. Well, these clanks didn’t match the Thai time system either.

To add to my confusion, sometimes these clanks didn’t always happen on the hour. I refuted my original thesis and decided the clanks had nothing to do with time. They remained a mystery of the highest order and I decided that their purpose was to have no purpose at all.

Time passed. While standing in front of a desk one day, the clanks came again. This time they chose to let me understand. Clank clank. Clank clank. Clank clank. My brain screamed EUREKA! Not six clanks. Three. Three240700k3.jpg clanks. I looked down, and yes, oh yes. It was three o’clock! Like a scene straight out of Sesame Street with Countdracula (Hah hah hah!!! Three! Three wonderful clanks!) I rejoiced. I had learned the code of our neighbourhood timekeeper.

Now I can tell if he’s having a bad day. He can be up to 35 minutes late with his time keeping, other days he is as punctual as the Swiss rail system. I think he has the world’s greatest job but I can’t fathom how he gets paid for it or even if he does.

One day last week he gave a particularly interesting performance. The speed of the clanks was rapid fire with no breaks between the sets of two. I got a real kick out of this speed metal version. Maybe he has been listening to Metallica or maybe he was just in a rush.

I have never seen him, and for now I don’t want to. But before I move house I would love to watch him work, preferably at three in the morning with a full moon shining down on the pond in the park. The other neighbours will be out fishing with their nets and tire tubes. Perhaps he will appear 15 or 30 minutes late. I will just sit in the shadows and watch my neighbourhood celebrity.

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