On the Road Again: Littering

Mcdonalds cup and other litter on the side of the roadI have to be honest.  I was all ready to present you with another riveting topic for this month’s On the Road Again article.  But life’s road takes its twists and turns and sometimes unexpected circumstances can lead one down a literary path he didn’t expect to take.

So, last night I was sitting in a different kind of traffic: in line at a local fast food restaurant.  With my wife out of town, I decided to let someone else make dinner for me and my boys – cooking is not one of my strong suits or aspirations.  While I was enjoying the company of my 15 year old, asking him about his day and making sure his homework was done before I gave him the head nod to hop onto his Xbox after dinner, the young lady in the car in front of me inexplicably opened her door, looked back at me with a sneer, and not-so-surreptitiously placed the litter from her car on the ground right in the middle of the drive through.  My son said, “I can’t believe she just did that. That’s so wrong!”

I couldn’t believe it either.

Now I’m not one that looks for or even enjoys confrontation.  I’m a go-along-to-get-along, to-each-his-(or her)-own, what-goes-around-comes-around-kind-of-guy.  But as a professional in the solid waste (a.k.a. trash and recycling) industry, wanton littering gets my environmental hackles up.  Plotting my revenge, I waited for the litter bug to slowly make her way to the menu and microphone.  Meanwhile, I hopped out of my car and grabbed her trash.  Having rolled her window down to order, I introduced myself and told her that she seems to have left something behind.  I really wanted to be a Good Samaritan and return her property lest she be disappointed that she did not get a second opportunity to do the right thing and dispose of her trash properly.  I’ll have to pass on relating verbatim what she said to me in return – it would assuredly violate the use of profanity rules we’ve established for this blog.  Suffice it to say, I was told that I could go do something to myself.  Without any solicitation on my part, she also was kind enough to tell me that I was number one with a hand gesture that is made by using the longest finger on your hand.

A sign that says "don't be a litter bug"In the end, I returned her property to her by gently placing it on the roof of her car while she placed her order.  Unfortunately, Miss Litterbug really didn’t appreciate my thoughtfulness and threw it at my car.  I hope she appreciated me reciprocating her kindness by letting her know in sign language that I thought she was pretty neat-o too.

My optimistic and rarely seen soft side makes me hope that when we take action to call people to the carpet for their blatant public misbehavior, they will take a moment to reconsider and “own it”.  But some people are beyond redemption and I don’t think this minor confrontation changed her in any way.  Nor do I think this little incident will prevent her from littering in the future or put her on a track toward pursuing a long and rewarding career in the environmental sciences.  What I do think, however, is that I now have a new found optimism about our upcoming generation incubating in the classrooms and hallways of our local high schools.  I think I was passively taking for granted how in tune these kids are to what’s right and what’s wrong.

“I can’t believe she just did that. That’s so wrong!”

While I may be a little biased, no finer or more appropriate words have even been spoken nor made me more proud of my kid.

I think our environment is in very good hands.

And please don’t litter.