Give a hoot; don't pollute!

Litter is my biggest pet peeve. It bothers me even more than when someone uses a hyphen instead of an em or en dash, and that is really saying something.

I have said many times, in many mediums that there are only two acceptable reasons to litter:
  1. Someone is threatening to kill you if you don't throw your empty McD's bag, water bottle or losing lottery tickets out of the car.
  2. Continuing to carry your grocery bag of wing bones, bag of chips, or half-eaten burger will impeded your ability to run away from a would-be assassin.
I am tired of people having no regard for their community. But I am even more tired of having to look at it when I walk my dog nearly every day. So most days (not including a couple of winter months) I pick up things along our 1-2 mile neighborhood stroll. Fortunately, because I do this so often, most days I have just a couple of things to pick up. Unfortunately, last year, my perception of litter became more heightened, and I started to become bothered by little bits of trash in people's lawns and driveways. These various items likely fell out of their garbage bags, or they might have been dropped there or were carried by the wind. But whatever the reason, the homeowners/renters do not feel compelled to pick them up. Last night, I reached down in someone's driveway and picked up a plastic lei that had been there for weeks. A few houses down, I picked up a spoon from the edge of a yard which had been there since sometime in January. Two weeks ago, I walked several feet into someone's yard to pick up wrapping paper that had been there since just after Christmas. I know I should not be doing this. I am pretty sure it constitutes as trespassing, but these things are so visible on my walk, and I just get tired of seeing them.

When I went to confession just before Christmas, I told the very traditionally conservative priest that whenever I pick up litter, I often wish something bad on the person. Not death. Nothing serious. But I find myself saying things like "I hope you were throwing up all night or had a horrible hangover the next day" when I pick up a beer can. Or "I hope you felt your chest tighten and stained your shirt" as I pick up a fast-food bag and ketchup packets. and, my most often "I hope you get into a coughing fit and that your lungs don't turn too black" (I did not mention that one to the priest). The priest, who actually chuckled, told me that if I felt this way, it might be best to stop picking up litter. I told him I was not sure I could. He also suggested I pray for them. I tried that for a few days. Then I was back to cursing people, though a little less often.

When I was nearly done with my walk last night, and had filled my bag with a variety of things, I noticed a piece of mail in a yard near ours. I walked a couple of feet into the yard and saw an official-looking envelope addressed to the woman who lives across the street. I hated to leave it there, as it would surely blow away. I figured the mail carrier dropped it (our neighborhood has had plenty of issues with mediocre mail people). I decided to pick it up and walk across the street. Because I had my dog with me, I did not want to ring the bell, so I just put it in the already full mailbox. And then I went home and told the hubs, who was quite upset. I get it. It was wrong. The neighbor whom I barely know might have thought I was taking mail from the box and could have called the police. In fact, there is a chance, although remote, that one day when I walk into someone's yard to pick up some trash, the homeowner might accuse of me something. I intend to call the police to ask what I should do in this situation. Unfortunately when I was walking last night, I also came upon a raw hamburger patty in a grocery bag that my dog almost got to. This was the third time in two months that someone has tossed out raw meat (the last two times it was a single chicken breast) in the same location. Some local people think maybe someone is trying to poison animals in the area. I hope it is not that. But I figure a phone call will not hurt, though a police officer might laugh when I call.

In the meantime, I will likely keep on picking up litter and attempting to keep my little part of America clean. And hopefully I can resist the urge to stop walking into others' yards to try to keep their places clean. As for wishing for hangovers and coughing fits? I am still working on it. Lent does start next week!


Mel said…
each day is a new one, thankfully. keep trying to pray for people you'd rather curse--it is difficult, I know. mine is traffic and bad drivers... but I am better off when I try to pray instead of curse, and God rewards obedience. so, hang in there. litter makes me crazy too--the laziness is unbelievable. definitely call police re: the raw meat! that is not right and if it is attempted poisoning? need to find that person before they hurt someone--animal cruelty is a proven sign of worsening cruelty to people, if undiscovered or unchecked...
Facie said…
Mel, during the first day of Lent, I uttered, "What a jerk" while picking up a piece of trash, but I quickly "corrected" myself and said a quick prayer. The next day, there was no cursing. I am going out now, so we will see how it goes.

I did call the police about the meat, and the officer said there was not much he could do, though offered to send an officer out. At his suggestion, I called the ARL and left a message, but they were obviously not concerned enough to call me back, so I think that raw meat will just remain a mystery. On a more positive note, he did make me feel better about going a little ways into people's yards and picking up trash and even picking up the letter. So hopefully I will stay out of the pokey!

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