Culture Family Stories 

China Cleaning Trucks and That Song: It’s A Small World After All

“I don’t like those trucks.” I never thought I’d here those words coming out of my 7-year old son’s mouth. He loves trucks!

But we live in China, and he didn’t even have to see the truck to know his feelings about it. He just needed to hear that special song that would have attracted children by the masses back in the US.

Here in Fuzhou, the music-box sound of “It’s a Small World After All” doesn’t mean the ice cream truck is coming. It means the street cleaning truck is on it’s way!

We were all riding in a van when it happened.

He was sitting comfortably up in the front by a window. There was a hushed chatter in the background. I remember hearing the familiar tune, and then hearing my son make his remarks. He didn’t even stop staring out the window. He was stuck in thought, and God only knows what scene he had playing through his head. Probably something that included him being chased down by a street cleaning truck, getting soaked in dirty water, and left to dry. I can see how nightmarish it can be.

I told him, “You know, son, that song usually brings happy thoughts to kids.” He didn’t seem convinced, and I can’t blame him.

Even I have been trained to look for the nearest bus stop post, trash can, or car to avoid being sprayed. I remember the first time I was out in the open when a cleaning truck came by. I was walking with a friend on the sidewalk, with nothing to hide behind in sight.

My friend and I just squealed and giggled while we attempted to avoid the water. After a few encounters with the truck and careful observation of the locals, I now have a slight feeling of accomplishment knowing that I have learned the secrets of how to evade being sprayed.

I’m not sure how the street cleaning trucks come in other cities, but in Fuzhou, you can’t miss them.

They are water-spraying behemoths of a truck, with giant rotating bristled brushes at the base. I’ve even seen one that blows water from the top of the truck like a never-ending super-soaker canon. It would completely drench anyone behind it, or above it on a bridge, except it gives you the opposite feeling that you might experience from a ride at a water park.

Oh, and don’t forget about the deceptively sweet melody. I think they should change the tune to something a little more dramatic to prepare people for what’s coming their way.

Maybe the tune that announces the Wicked Witch of the West would be appropriate.

In the US, we lived in a smaller city, and if there ever was something like a street cleaning truck, I never saw it. I’d like to think they came out at night, or early in the morning, you know, before there were any people outside that could get doused in street water. Now, thanks to our wonderful new city (which we really do love), I get to teach my kids how to do something I never would have taught them back in the US – how to protect yourself from a street cleaner.

So, what do I do about my son’s repulsion of the street cleaning truck, and by default, a beloved children’s melody?

I think the best thing is to let him keep learning. He’s getting street smarts here in Fuzhou that he wouldn’t have learned elsewhere. They may seem confusing when he goes to the US, though.

For example, he may run away from the ice cream truck instead of toward it, but at least he knows how to run for cover and feel sorry for the poor e-bike rider who doesn’t stand a chance.

Who knows, maybe people will start taking cues from my kids when they first encounter the street cleaning beast.

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Rachel Watters is making her home in Fuzhou, China. She and her husband, Sherman, have 8 children, three of which are adopted. Rachel spends her time teaching in their English Training Center, taking care of their youngest child, and teaching English in a local public school. She also spends a lot of time buying groceries and picking up packages from Taobao. Along with writing, she loves to hike, sing, bake, and nature watch. Spending time with her husband is her favorite way to enjoy a day, and she’s working on not being too serious.
Wechat: RachelWatters

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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One Thought to “China Cleaning Trucks and That Song: It’s A Small World After All”

  1. YES!!! We ride our e-bikes around and whenever we hear that sound we have to veer off into some parking lot or something. It is a joke now for us. Whenever our kids hear that song they start screaming (jokingly) and tell us to hide.

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