Unless it’s raining, my wife and I take the dog and go for a walk in the mornings. We turn left out of our driveway and walk to the stop sign where our little country road dumps into a slightly bigger country road— then we turn around and come back. It’s a bit over two and a half miles, round-trip, and we walk the same stretch every day. Most of the people along the route have a few acres of land, so there’s pasture and woods and fences draped in honeysuckle, and there are lots of dogs and horses and even a few deer.
There’s also a lot of garbage. Now, this is America, so we expect to see trash along the sides of the road. America has an apparently endless supply of spoiled, self-absorbed, irresponsible morons who suck down whatever soft-drink or cigarette or beer or french fries suits the whim of the moment, then chuck the empty can or plastic bottle or styrofoam sarcophagus or cigarette pack out the window where it vanishes from sight and consciousness, magically transformed into “Somebody Else’s Problem” (see Doug Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide).
The road we walk every morning is littered with SEPs, all completely invisible to the average self-absorbed moron. But I have it on good authority that I’m an above average self-absorbed moron, so eventually I noticed that I was seeing the same plastic bottle half-full of blue Powerdrink lying in exactly the same spot every day. It was almost directly in front of a house but it was fifty feet from the driveway and within two feet of the paved road— clearly Somebody Else’s Problem. That’s why the owner couldn’t see it. We saw the same handful of dead lottery tickets curling and fading in the same patch of weeds and the same amber beer bottle breeding mosquitoes in the same ditch every day. For three months.
My wife and I got really tired of seeing the same garbage every day, and when we finally figured out that nobody else was going to do anything about it we decided to institute Happy Trash Day. One day a week we cram a few of those filmy plastic grocery bags in our pockets, pick up trash as we walk, and when the bags get full we drop them in whatever garbage bin we pass.
Now, we’re not applying for sainthood here. What we’re doing is not a big deal. It’s not even hard; in fact it’s sort of a semi-fun break from routine. It’s only one little stretch of country road. We’re not trying to change the world or anything, we’re just tired of looking at garbage. The first week we filled eight bags with trash. The second week we filled four. Since then, it’s been two bags a week pretty consistently.
The walk is a little more pleasant now that the garbage is gone. What I find interesting is that, in one hour a week, with very little effort, two people are able to counteract the negative impact of a whole week’s worth of spoiled, self-absorbed, irresponsible morons on our little country road. The effort it takes to go from being part of the problem to being part of the solution is so minimal I can’t figure out why more people don’t do it.
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