posted by Matt W on January 4th, 2012

I was walking through an upscale strip mall, the kind that they put nice signs and awnings on and therefore think you are willing to spend more money at. (I hate to break it to you designers, there’s no such thing as a nice strip mall.) Well, anyway, as I was walking, I noticed a woman in front of me reach down and pick up a piece of litter. I have never seen a person pick up litter that wasn’t wearing an orange jumpsuit. She picked it up, looked at it for a while and then threw it back to the ground and walked on. I was intrigued; what was so evil about this particular piece of trash that it was re-littered? I walked over and picked it up. It was an expired 25% off any purchase card at a local store. As my first instinct was to re-re-litter it for probably the hundredth time I can’t be too critical, but I did indeed walk it over and throw it in the trash.

On a volleyball trip, I rushed through the drive-thru at McDonalds. There was a car in front of us at the mic, and as she is talking to the cashier, she opens her door and places a large bag of garbage on the ground at the foot of the drive-thru kiosk. As no one has ever driven through a McDonald’s drive-thru once, she has to know there is a garbage can in 20 feet. “Throw away your own freaking trash!”

My favorite act of littering is throwing down cigarette butts. I once asked a smoker friend of mine why he threw his butts out the window of his car and he said, “I don’t want those dirty things in my car.” Well on behalf of all your fellow country-mates, “We love having them on the ground instead of in your car, thanks!” Whenever I see this act of littering, I always want to get out of my car and pick up the smoldering butt and throw it back into the car that just tossed it. “Here you go; you must have dropped this by accident.” However, as it seems like every once in a while you read about someone getting shot for doing far less, I keep my paranoid butt firmly planted in my car’s seat.

Littering is a strange act. Someone feels that in a public place, it is someone else’s job to pick up after them. Or it is too inconvenient to walk the 20 steps required to make it over to the trash can. Or the litter in your car can’t stay there for another second. Or that cigarette butt is better thrown out the window than put out in the ashtray. Really? While I can’t say that littering is what is dragging our society down, and is the root of all evil, I will say, it is the small acts, like throwing away our own litter that proves we are civilized.

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