What kind of people … !!??


Image by nifwlseirff via Flickr

(Be warned! This is the first rant I’ve posted on my blog. It may not be pretty; but I’m pissed enough that I don’t really care. I took my own pictures of the trash along the road, but left my cable for downloading back in Wyoming. And now–on with the rant!)

This morning I awoke to a January 19 that was glorious–sunshine, brisk clean air and a light breeze. I was in a great mood because I was in the midst of a four-day visit with my grandkids, because I was about to kick off a five-city book tour, because I got to run with my son last night, and because I was feeling healthy and confident about my training for the Boston marathon. Running through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this should have been one of those memorable long runs, and it was … for all the wrong reasons.

It started well. I ran out of my son’s neighborhood, over Route 340, across a field to the railroad tracks. I was thinking about running north along the tracks until I found that this set of tracks didn’t have a service road alongside like the ones back home in Wyoming. So I made my way along the tracks, skipping and stuttering down the ties–having fun despite the uneven footing–until I came to a road, which I then followed and began a long loop course on which I eventually covered eleven miles.

My son lives south of the small Virginia city of Waynesboro. This farm country lies in the rolling foothills below the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is land that shocks you with its generosity. The exuberant, fertile goodness of the earth is close to the surface here in Virginia. After almost two years in Wyoming, Virginia seems like a rich, green Eden.

Back on the roads, well into my run, I began to notice the trash strewn about this otherwise idyllic landscape. I was on a roller coaster of a country lane called Rockfish Gap Road. It runs between farms and homesteads, some new and some old and stately. Wide fields that look verdant even in winter were interspersed with bright, well-kept houses sporting broad lawns, covered porches, and field stone fences.

Rockfish Gap is not a commuter road. The people who use the road live around here. This is their “home turf” so to speak, their literal front yard. For almost five miles I ran alongside a litter-scarred shoulder; I couldn’t go more than twenty feet without seeing evidence that our society has truly taken “throw-away” to new heights. I couldn’t understand why some of these people would trash the place they live.

I’m a “devil’s advocate” kind of guy. People who know me well accept that I often present the opposing view-point, even when that view is the exact opposite of what I believe. I pride myself on being able to consider other people’s opinions fairly. But trashing our world is something that there is no “other side” to consider. People who toss their cigarette butts, beer bottles and fast-food trash out the window of their car or truck are the dregs of mankind, the lowest form of life our society produces.

How can I say that? Absurd, you say? Well, let me just tell you that I identify these littering SOBs with all the mass-murderers, child-molesters and spouse-abusing miscreants out there. Wait, it is more than that! I say the aforesaid miswired perverts and lowlifes are all litterbugs. When you see someone throwing their trash onto our roadsides, you are seeing one of those awful people at work.

And, based on observations from my run this morning, I can tell you that most of them smoke (probably Newports or Marlboro), drink Mountain Dew and/or Keystone Ice beer, and eat at McDonald’s. Unfortunately, we can’t just round up all the people who partake of these vices and shoot them. Because it was disheartening to see just about every beverage & food brand represented alongside the road– lots of Bud Light, Dr. Pepper, pizza boxes, Chinese food containers, pretty much anything you can name I saw along the road; even my poison of choice–Diet Coke.

I believe a comprehensive “litter census” should be taken and the corporations whose logo is found the most along our nation’s byways should be forced to pay for cleaning them up. It is their consumerist, me-first, “gimme what I want and make it cheap and easy” advertising that contributes to people thinking that they are only responsible for their own happiness; the hell with how it impacts the world around them.

When I turned first onto Dooms Crossing Road–some imaginative thoughts of what to do with litterbugs were generated by that road name–and then onto Rte. 340 North, it was even worse. Here, it was obvious that it wasn’t just snack and mealtime trash that people felt at liberty to distribute along the roadside. A broken lawn chair, an empty hand lotion pump bottle, empty ice bags, oil cans, broken tools, and a huge variety of packaging for all types of stuff lined the road. I could easily have run back stepping from one piece of litter to the next. Only where a home fronted the road was the shoulder mostly clean. I felt bad for those people. It is likely that almost every day they must gather the trash in their yard so that visiting friends don’t think they live like pigs.

Some of you might say that not everyone who tosses trash out the window is a degenerate. You’ll argue that some are just irredeemably lazy a-holes or thoughtless, ignorant bastards. But I don’t agree. The same character flaw that allows them to think that they are free to abuse our roadsides with their detritus also frees them to abuse children and treat the lives of others as beneath their consideration.

I will make one small allowance; I’ll allow that some litterbugs have not stooped to mass-murder and perversion … yet. They may still be redeemed. Share this post as widely as possible. Maybe some near-perverted human can be saved. If they recognize the road to hell that they are on, it is possible they can pull themselves free and resist the temptation to roll their window down and toss that cigarette butt. Otherwise, eternal damnation will certainly be their lot.

Not that I think fear of hell can save these people. We need to make our littering laws unreasonably tough–$5,000-fine-and-100-hours-picking-up-alongside-our-roads tough. I am sick and tired, and really angry, that everywhere I run–be it city or country, east coast or west, or anywhere in between–I have to put up with seeing the beauty in this world–and there is a lot–spoiled by other people’s disrespect of both man and nature.

This seems like such a simple issue. I think it would be nice if everyone saw littering as the sign of a deeper character flaw. Because it is. What kind of people look out on the world and see a trash can?

BTW – I used the empty box from a 24-pack of beer and an ice bag to pick up the trash I photographed, and a bit more. It felt like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.


Filed under Personal, Rants, Running

4 responses to “What kind of people … !!??

  1. Phil Selmer

    Unfortunately, litter like what you saw is not uncommon in this area. I think a lot of it comes from people driving their trash to the dump and not bothering to spend the time to make sure half of it doesn’t fly out of their pickups. At least twice a month, I’ll see another trash bag that was blown out of a truck and ripped open with trash strewn about or blowing around.

    It’s even worse going to the convenience center (trash/recycling collection). I carefully sort and separate my recycling from the trash and always put it in the right container. When I get to throwing the trash in the compacter, I’ll always see recyclables in there. How can it be too much work to walk 30 feet to put it where it should go?

    If there was one thing I could change about this area, would be all the inconsiderate, ignorant, and/or lazy people who’s actions continually detract from the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley.

    • There was some of that along 340. But, accidents happen and I allowed for that. Most of what I saw was where some individual chose to deposit a can, bottle, cigarette butt (or empty pack) or fast food bag and cup, along the road. This is what’s disturbing about the amount; it represents hundreds, thousands really, of conscious choices by people who should know better. And isn’t just here in the Shenandoah Valley; it is everywhere.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. I just don’t know what kind of person can make the conscious decision to toss trash down, knowing that it will remain there. Do we blame mother’s who clean up constantly after their children (and spouses)? Did these people just not LEARN that it is our own personal responsibility to take care of our own trash? Or do they really not care? Do they not SEE the trash, do they not see the beauty they destroy with their trash? I just don’t get it.

  3. There are many reasons people litter, and they all point to bad character flaws (with respect to developed nations such as ourselves). I abhor any person who litters, and won’t hold my tongue for it. It’s the one thing I will actually start a confrontation about.

    For example, on my daily, walk to campus every morning for 2 years, I encountered an assault of litter everyday (in the heart of Raleigh, NC, NCSU). It was mainly fast-food take-out refuse (Mostly CookOut styrofoam boxes and cups, probably from the drunk *insert insulting name* students finising their meal on the way back to the dorm) and beer bottle/cans. Everyday, on the way to AND from school, I could pick up a clean plastic bag from the brush, fill it with litter, properly dispose of it (trash vs recycling), then repeat sooner than later. I hated it, because I had to plan trash picking up into my commute time because I just can’t conciously walk past it. I feel quilty when I encounter large items, or just large amounts, that I can’t possibly recitfy.

    I think you’re right that companies should be responsible for litter. My solution has also been extensive litter-picking the punishment for every, single crime (in addition to other penalties). You get a DUI, consider it part of your probation to pick up trash every week for 2 years at least. What is a large source of litter that is incredibly efficient to recycle… booze containers. Not necessarily because these people are the kind of scumbags who litter, but really because you don’t want to be caught in public with a drink canister, so you have to ditch it as quick as possible. People do drink and drive, even by making it illegal, people still do it, so we need to consider what to do with those bottles and cans. Regardless, any crime and you will have to pick up litter. That way, a large majority of Americans will finally dread litter, even if not for the correct moral reasons, and we will probably see a reduction.

    People need education. NC actually has a ban on certain items from the landfill, including aluminum cans and plastic bottles (recently added back in 2009). But most people, and I mean basically all NC’ers I encounter have no idea that it is illegal to put their drink bottles/cans into the trash. But really most people are so ignorant as realize why not to just throw whatever where ever you want. Or that most products, including cigarette butts, actually don’t degrade.

    I don’t like the term “litterbug”, it sounds too pleasant, to euphamoristic. They deserve some stigmatic label that truly reveals them as they scum they are.

    Sorry to have posted such a long response as a comment, I really shoul(have) just make my own post about it. Think I got caught up in a rant like you. Though I should have expected it when I started searching for articles by the tag “litter”.

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