Quiet Desperation

Any excuse for littering is just so much rubbish


John Lennon said, “Littering is easy with eyes closed.”

Littering is easy and it’s fun and it’s a great way to thumb your nose at that arcane word “civility,” which has gone down the floor and out the door.

I’m doing community service. I’d rather not explain why. It had something to do with the use of a misplaced modifier. The judge threw the book at me. It happened to be a copy of Strunk and White’s English grammar and punctuation masterpiece “The Elements of Style.”

I was sentenced to write three columns: about cellphones and tailgating and littering, the harm linked to each of them, knowing full well I would be ignored. Heck, I was tailgated by a guy on a cellphone on the way to the newspaper to drop off one of the essays.

He hit the trifecta: He threw a candy wrapper out the window.

After this column, I will have done my time and I can return to what I am best known for: handy hints for homeowners.

Here’s a sample: Don’t go eating detergent pods.

Harry and I just returned from a nearby park. It’s big and green and meticulously groomed, there are two ball fields, restrooms, a fenced-in playground, and all around it are trash cans.

All around the trash cans we saw trash.

How is that? Why is that?

We saw empty water bottles near empty soda bottles near empty sandwich and chip bags.

Someone packed a picnic, but they forgot to pack mom — or dad — or someone like me, who picks up after (careful, Craig) worthless dopes, dunces and fools who leave their detritus like scat.

“If you pack it in, pack it out.”

Maybe you have been reading about plastic straws. It’s a start.

Litter lasts this long: cigarette butts, 1-5 years; aluminum cans, 80-100 years; plastic bags, 10-20 years; wool socks, 1-5 years; plastic bottles, indefinitely.

On the way home from the park, Harry and I went to the grocery store. I spotted someone’s butts and ashes in a parking space. Not far off were the remains of a fast-food lunch.

Flicking a butt always looks cool and hip in films, don’t she? Fifty percent of all littered items are cigarette butts.

Like I said: This is my third and final go-around with delinquencies — or perceived delinquencies. If it were up to me, I’d let it be, go with the flow, tolerate the intolerable, abide the exploitation of decencies, and take the high road, and say, “Right on, worthless dopes and dunces and fools. Don’t mind me. Just be yourself.”

Maybe it starts at home like just about everything else.

Who hasn’t heard, “Pick up your room”?

Analytically, an admonishment like that is embedded with dominance and submission, and there comes a point (an age) when most of us rebel — and we don’t put our belongings where they belong.

If you go to a park - or almost anywhere — there are signs.

“Don’t do this, and don’t do that,” and guess what happens?

Rules are made to be broken. What feels better than outrunning law enforcement? What feels better than walking an unleashed dog? What feels better than thumbing your nose at The Man? Littering, likewise, is a sign of non-conformity.

According to Keep America Beautiful, it costs $11.5 billion to clean up litter in the United States every year.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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