Let’s talk trash.
Uh, that doesn’t sound right.
Try this one instead: This column is a piece of garbage.
Ugh, that’s even worse. In the English language, it’s amazing how much the meaning of a sentence can change when just one word is omitted.
So, take 3:
This column is about a piece of garbage – actually, many pieces of garbage.
It’s about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure – at least in a couple of instances – but mostly it’s about one man’s trash being another man’s trash.
It’s about selfishness.
And ignorance, which is a fancy and prettier word – a taking-the-high-road word – for stupidity.
It’s about publicly trashing the people who trash us by throwing their trash out wherever, whenever and however they feel like it, as many times as they feel like it. Simply said, it’s littering.
I walk a lot.
It’s healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
As such, I’ve never had a bad walk, ever.
But I’ve certainly had bad moments, and that happens every time I see trash along my route.
Like most of us, I was taught to pick up after myself – you start to understand that when you’re 5 years old – but I’ve found out that there are those who never learned it, or just choose to ignore it.
They’re too busy, too important, too much in a hurry to be bothered with finding a proper way to dispose of it.
They’re also smart, though, because they know full well that there are always people – like you and me – who will pick it up and get rid of it for them. We don’t like to see it so we’ll growl, mutter under our breath, bend down and, oh, so carefully, grab it and discard it hopefully without getting goopy stuff all over us and what we’re wearing. That would make us growl and mutter under our breath even more.
I’ve found nearly everything and anything on my twice-daily strolls.
There are the usual items such as cans, plastic and glass bottles, plastic wrappers, plastic cups (so many that my cup runneth over), fast-food bags, plastic bags, plastic drink straws (lots and lots of plastic, huh?), broken glass and metal, presumably from vehicle accidents that were not cleaned up properly, or at all, plastic disposable gloves (I hesitate to think what they were used for) and pieces of paper in all shapes, sizes and colors.
Twice I found an empty cigarette pack on which was written by the manufacturer, "Respect for the earth."
Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see how puffing smoke into the air and then littering is paying tribute to Mother earth. With friends like that, she doesn’t need enemies.
Do these things – these throwaways – have babies? It seems that way, for when I come back in the late afternoon or early evening after having cleaned up in the very early morning, I find that it looks as if I had never been there. There is junk everywhere.
And I do mean everywhere.
It is demoralizing.
But like those of you who do the same thing in your daily garbage detail, I am undaunted. A little perturbed, but undaunted nonetheless. It gets to be a competition – us against them, the junkies, as we might not-so-affectionately call them – and darn it, we’re going to win, if only by outlasting them and/or frustrating them. After all, when they walk by and see that we’ve picked up their trash from earlier, it might send a message to them that what they’re doing is not cool in the eyes of others.
Actually, if I knew where they lived, I’d put all the trash into bags, take them to their residence and dump them onto their front lawns. They would think that their own trash has followed them. And we could say with a chuckle, "OK, pal, now you pick it up with your bare hands and let’s see how you like it."
But I’ve also found things that I would never discard, or keep.
Twice I found checks made out to individuals, one of which in the amount of $100. I mailed both of them back to the signers at the addresses on the checks.
I found a debit card and took it to the police station.
I often wonder what passersby – either on foot or bikes, or in vehicles – think when they see me gathering things off the ground.
Two ladies thanked me for doing that.
"God bless you," one of them said.
I’ll take one of those all the time. And thanks for noticing.
Another woman saw me as she got into her car after coming out of one of those big-chain pharmacies that are open 24/7. Thirty seconds later, I looked up and she was approaching me with something cupped in her hand.
"Here, I have some money for you," she said.
The look on my face obviously let her know that I was confused by what she was doing.
"I thought you were looking for bus fare," she said.
I stammered back, "I know I probably look like a homeless person, but I’m really not. I pick up trash as I walk every morning. But thank you for your kind intentions."
She smiled and walked away – then probably called 9-1-1.
I know it’s still dark at that hour and hardly anyone else is out – I once had a police officer stop me because he thought I was up to no good because the only people walking the streets in the pre-dawn are up to no good, or have just recently been up to no good – but I’ve just got to start dressing better.
I have to be careful not to look like what I’m collecting.