In a water city, the water is the place to look to see the day's work being done. Watching the traffic on the lagoon and on the larger canals is like watching the rest of the world with its wheels removed, sending up a wake. As I stood for a few minutes along the Fondamente Nuove, the broad quay on the north side of Venice, I saw a speeding ambulance, a shipment of oranges, a veterinarian's boat (a cat emergency?), and a fire boat. A brown-and-white boat went by with "United Parcel Service" emblazoned on its side. Another boat was carrying a new dishwasher, and on the prow was the single word "Whirlpool." And -- startling yet perfectly logical -- a hearse boat chugged past with a shiny mahogany coffin on deck. San Michele, the cemetery island of Venice, was only a few hundred yards away; behind me, along the Fondamente Nuove and its little side streets, the marble workers were busy cutting and polishing headstones and tombs.