What can a photo tell us? Here’s a little ledge on the lift shaft in our apartment block. The stairwell is clearly often used for a quick smoke — what’s the point of a malodorous and carcinogenic habit if you can’t share it with your neighbours? — and this would equally clearly be soneone’s favoured spot. I assume someone, anyway, given that the discarded packs are all the same type. Is this an elegant repurposing and appropriation of the existing architecture? (You can tell I am married to an urban sociologist.) An example of the perfect equipoise between slovenliness and punctilio? (“I will throw away my dog-ends and packs, but not just willy-nilly.”) Or simply an illustration of the fact that communal spaces in a Russian apartment block receive distinctly little love and attention, let alone cleaning.
I am tempted to take a plastic bag down and clear it myself, but (a) I would feel strangely transgressive applying my alien values and (b) I am genuinely curious to see both how quickly the dog ends add up and what happens if the ledge gets full. The inner ethnographer wars with my inner cleaner.
Postscript: 28 January. Today one of the dom staff came and cleaned the stairwell, including the ledge ‘o many dog ends. Does this mean that it’s cleaned but very rarely, that the secret smoker worked very hard to build up his or her collection in between cleans, or that the dom management reads this blog? I think I can exclude one of that trio of explanations.