I saw you over at a Wendy’s parking lot this afternoon after picking up a few things at the Target across the plaza. The closest garbage can couldn’t have been more than a few feet away but while you were rummaging through your old, blue Toyota…
A plastic cup catapulted out of your driver’s side window, along with a flying orange straw right after. Both lay forlorn on the asphalt and already tumbling with the wind.
During the dawn of 2020, an age emerging as the most environmentally conscious, I was beside myself wondering how, with our cultural zeitgeist saturated with the ravages of climate change, your kind still manage to exist.
And by ‘your kind’, I mean, the phenomenon known as: the Litterbug.
I guess, for a moment, without really pondering about it much, naively perhaps, I assumed the Litterbug to be a relic of another age, like roller rinks or smoking in-doors– soon to be extinct, joining the ranks of dinosaurs, Woolly Mammoths and maybe the… honeybee?
Who are you, anyway?
Granted I wasn’t close enough to gauge around how old you were but from where I was, you couldn’t be any older than I am — in short: a Millenial.
So no, I couldn’t adequately chalk this up to some “Ok, boomer” moment.
No, you were just a semi-young woman in an old beater, who decided to chuck the trash in your car onto the curb, with no consideration for basic decency or aesthetics.
Maybe you think I’m some senseless do-gooder watching from afar and shaking my head.
How dare I judge you, right?
It’s not like I know who you are. You could’ve had a bad day. Maybe you had a breakup or a loss.
Or maybe the Wendy’s you just exited is your full-time job, the cap you were wearing did look like part of a uniform, and your wage likely isn’t high so maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet.
I get that. Believe me.
I’m educated, but working class. I’ve been all across the board in terms of financial privilege, I know those bills can pile up when you’re already behind. I know you could’ve been dealing with rude customers all day…
Maybe, in most other regards, you’re a decent person.
Why not take some responsibility?
Would it have been so much trouble to wait until you got home to throw your plastic cup away?
You could’ve put a baggie in the car. Sometimes I keep my trash on the passenger side floor, disorganized, sure, but it always finds its way in a garbage can.
Or if it bothered you so much and you just didn’t feel like walking the few feet, you could’ve thrown it away in a trashcan at the nearest gas station on the way home.
You are aware that plastic itself has become a crisis now, no?
How aware are you?
Have you ever heard of Greta Thunberg? Unless you spent 2019 in some remote village thousands of miles away from the nearest Wifi tower, you likely have.
You’ve likely heard some of these matters, no? In passing, maybe?
I’m not saying you must be an expert — I’m certainly not, though I’m learning — but I wish you had some sensibility in this regard.
How could you not?
Do you relish walking through a plaza, park, or (maybe your child’s) school campus and see loose garbage blowing about?
If you do see this, is it possible that you just gloss over this eyesore? Pretend it isn’t there?
Seriously, what were you thinking?
I wonder if you have kids, Litterbug.
I wonder if you teach them to toss out their trash wherever too, or if you’re a well-intentioned hypocrite who teaches otherwise.
Maybe you’re reading this letter and think it’s petty. Or worse, maybe, you think I’m ‘punching down’ to a possibly disadvantaged fast food employee? In all fairness, though, she could’ve been upper management.
I’m someone whose job involves advocating for people with disabilities — punching down isn’t generally my thing.
Since I was a kid I could never understand the person tossing a crumpled McDonald’s bag out of a window on the freeway, with no regard of how ugly the act is.
I start to figure people like you enjoy the sight of trash.
You clearly don’t care, but this is one of those things where what you do, does have an effect on others- whether you have the awareness to understand that or not.
So, at least for next time, could you just keep a baggie in your car? Could you walk to the nearest garbage can?
As soon as you do this, even if the rest of us don’t see you finally making the effort, feel free to pat yourself on the back!
Listen to your favorite song on the way home and congratulate yourself on what a decent person you are.
If all you’re able to contribute to our world’s environmental cause is to not throw your garbage out your car window, then let’s start with that.
Don’t have a baggie?
I’ll give you one of mine.