Thursday, October 26, 2017

How I feel about littering.

Perhaps we can cling to the pretense that this blog post is simply a vignette, a glimpse into My Life on Broadway.
But honestly, it is a rant. About littering. And litterers.

Picking up litter does not make me feel good or hopeful or even compassionate about my fellow creatures. Picking up litter is the sort of task that fills you with despair; unless of course you are picking up litter as a form of punishment, and then perhaps you can feel at least you that are getting out and about, working your way toward an early parole.

We live on a main road in a smallish town. So main that it is called Broadway, which is almost as main as Main. Between Broadway and the stone wall that officially demarcates our property line is about five yards of greensward. Technically that greensward belongs to the county because Broadway is a county road, but because CSB mows it, and because I pick up the litter and trim the branches on the dogwood and forsythias we planted, I feel rather proprietary about this greensward.

Hence the weekly litter collection. Yesterday there was quite a haul: the usual cigarette packs, cellophane wrappers, fast food cups and their plastic tops and straws, colorful empty bags of BBQ chips and other toxic foods, one used condom, a torn shopping list alluding to pork, or maybe portabellas, or possible porridge, 3 O’Doul's cans, 2 plastic water bottles filled with yellowish liquid that I have to assume is urine, and one dead skunk.

Yes, I was wearing gloves. I didn’t always, but these days I am about those gloves the way converts are about the church: more pious than the Pope.

First, those O’Doul's cans. The thing is that every single time I pick up litter on our greensward I find at least one and usually more empty cans of O’Doul's. Someone out there is a guy (I assume it is a guy; call me prejudiced if you must.) heading south on Broadway, to or from work, and just before our house, he finishes his O’Doul's and tosses it onto the grass. Without a thought for the person, me, who will have to pick up that can if that patch of grass is not to one day look like a tornado-damaged recycling center. Has he ever once considered what it would look like if I never ever picked up his empties? Should I leave his empties in situ and give him pause? Or should I make a sculpture – say of an upthrust middle finger – out of those empties? I seriously think about these possibilities. If I were ever to actually witness this person tossing out an O’Doul's can, what would I do? Being the wimp I am, most likely hide behind the stone wall and squint in an effort to see the license plate and fail because my eyes are terrible. I prefer to imagine hurling myself at his speeding car and then proceeding to have a useful conversation about the evils of littering and then the O’Doul's guzzler would have a St. Paul at Damascus moment and we would form an anti-littering alliance.

In an effort to further extrapolate the character of the O’Doul's litterer I looked it up on line and found this on an official website:
O’Doul’s is a Low-Alcohol ( %0.05) beer produced in Missouri by Anheuser-Busch.
O’Doul’s has a mild, sweet taste with a slightly dry finish. O’Doul’s Amber has a rich, slightly sweet taste with flavorful hop finish.
It receives a rating of 1.98 out of 5. In other words, “awful”. In “BEER STATS” (I have no idea what this means), O’Doul’s ranks #44,264. (Sadly, that is probably not unlike my Amazon sales ranking, which I refuse to look at now, even for the purposes of complete transparency.)

According to the “Urban Dictionary” website:
O’Doul’s is “The most pointless beverage in the world: a non-alcoholic beer. If you're gonna drink fucking beer, take it like a man. O'Doul's actually has 0.5% alcohol, so if you can down about 100 you might feel a little buzz.
Jimmy drank 100 O'Doul's and was hospitalized for a water overdose...completely sober”

(I do not endorse the above statement. “Take it like a man”? Please.)

Seguing quite naturally from the empty beer cans, we come to the water bottles filled with pee. I am not a camel, and I know what it is like to experience what is so elegantly referred to as “urgency”. So I can sympathize with someone’s need to pee, while in a moving car. I really can. That has frequently happened to me, and I do what right-thinking people do: I stop somewhere and use the facilities, and absent any facilities, I find a tree or a rock. I do not litter. Of course, peeing into a bottle is not really an option for me, given the constraints of anatomy. But for males of the species it is technically possible to pee into a bottle and there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong, objectionable, rude, lazy and downright trashy, is throwing that bottle of pee on the grass into front of my house. Or anywhere. By throwing that bottle of pee out your window you have transformed a perfectly reasonable act in response to a perfectly normal human need, into an act of selfishness and pollution.

Then there was the dead skunk. A couple of days ago, presumably around the time of his unfortunate demise, I smelled the redolent odor of Pepe le Pew and thought of my dear departed Daisy and Bruno, who for this once would not be getting sprayed. Even with my excellent gloves, I did not remove the dead skunk. I would inform CSB, and leave it at that. But I had to wonder about myself and the gradations or irrationality of my squeamishness: why do I eschew touching a dead mammal, a very mangled dead mammal with a few flies, and yet collect the bottles filled with urine of selfish littering assholes?

Meanwhile, as I was finishing my litter collection and heading back to the shed with a full garbage bag, on the other side of Broadway came the crash of drums. Just across the way, in a wide open garage, I spotted the young man practicing on his drum set. All through June he tortured some of Patti Smith’s greatest tunes. Now it was The Doors. With his view from the garage, had he ever seen the O’Doul tosser? Make yourself useful, young man.