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Oscar Has Left The Can

Oh I love trash!
Anything dirty or dingy or dusty
Anything ragged or rotten or rusty
Oh I love trash!”

In the midst of the recycling revolution, those words mean something totally different than they did back when Oscar The Grouch first sang them on Sesame Street. The big-eyed green monster living in a trash can didn’t have a global warming or save the earth agenda. He was merely a cantankerous character who was always surrounded by everyone else’s garbage. That’s what made him funny to the average 3-5 year old.

But at the moment, trash isn’t making me laugh. Actually, it’s making me rather grouchy, because frankly, I’m tired of being surrounded by other people’s trash.

The kids and I were in the car outside of a convenience store, waiting for my husband to come out with some drinks. A smartly dressed woman with impeccably styled hair, who looked around 50-55 years old exited the store door carrying two clear plastic “to-go” boxes containing hotdogs. As she climbed into her car which was parked immediately next to us on the passenger side where I sat, she handed a hotdog to a younger woman in the passenger seat, and something else to the 4 or 5 year old little girl in the back. Just then, my husband exited the store and approached our car. He handed me my drink and when I turned to set it in the holder in the door beside me, I saw the woman who’d parked beside us roll down her window and throw her hotdog container right onto the pavement between our two cars. I lost it.

“That stupid woman just threw her trash out the window!”

“Who?” my husband asked.

“That lady!” I said pointing out my window. “She rolled down her window and threw her hotdog container on the ground!”

“Are you sure it’s hers?”

“I saw her roll down her window and throw it out!”

By this time, the woman was already beginning to back out of her spot. My husband quickly jumped out of the car. Reaching to his back pocket, he whipped out his wallet and opened it to his police officer’s badge, which he then pressed firmly against her window.

She stopped. Her window and mine rolled down in perfect synchronization.
I just had to hear this.

“Officer Keeney with the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, ma’am. You mind telling me why you couldn’t walk that plastic container 5 feet to the trash can immediately in front of your car?” His voice was direct, but calm.

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t see it.”

“You mean to tell me you didn’t see that trash can right there?” He pointed immediately in front of where she’d been parked. “It was directly in front of you, ma’am. Only 3 feet from your bumper.”

“No, I didn’t see it.”

“If that’s the case ma’am, then maybe I should confiscate your liscense. Someone who can’t see objects 3 feet in front of them probably shouldn’t be driving, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Uh–well–I meant–I didn’t see it. I mean, I didn’t look for it.”

“Oh, I see. Why bother looking for a trash can when you can just throw it out your window.”


“Ma’am, there’s a $300 dollar fine for littering. I’m guessing you’d rather walk that 5 feet now, am I right?”

She got out of her car, picked up the box, walked it to the trash can and got back in her car, mumbling under her breath. I wanted to step of our car and empty that trash can right onto her front hood.

Living in an area some would call “the hood”, where the roadsides are always strewn with 7-11 Big Gulp cups, McDonald’s bags, beer and whisky bottles and empty cigarette packs, I’ve become used to seeing filthiness.

There have been several times that I’ve seen someone throw a big paper cup or fast food bag out the car window. And apparently, there’s something about being stopped at a traffic light, that to some people at least, seems to be an invitation to decorate the intersection with their refuse.

I admit foolishness here, because seeing someone do something so disgusting and “trashy” like that makes my blood boil. Strangely, it also causes me to lose any sense of personal safety or rational behavior.

My husband wasn’t too happy a few years ago when I told him what I did after seeing the person on the passenger side of the car in front of me, throw a soda bottle out the window while we were stopped at a light in our neighborhood.

Without thinking, I put my car in park, got out of the car, walked to the side of their car and reached down to pick up the bottle. When I tapped on their window with the bottle and said “I think you dropped this”, in my corrective “you’re old enough to know better” kind of voice, they actually rolled down the window and took it back.

When I told this to my husband, I got the “You don’t know what kind of people you’re dealing with” speech. “What if they were thugs with a gun?”

And he was right. I guess it was pretty stupid. But honestly, I wasn’t thinking at the moment. I was so angry and annoyed that I reacted without considering the situation I could have ended up in. And when I think back on it, even they must have been taken aback by my boldness. I mean, how many people would actually roll their window down for a 5’2″, middle-aged woman and take back the trash they’d just thrown out?

So now, having been appropriately chastised by my husband for such doings, whenever I see someone throw stuff out the window I stay in my car.

And honk like crazy.

What I really want to do, is something totally different. In my heart, I have a fantasy of revenge.

I always keep an empty plastic grocery bag in the car to collect the granola bar wrappers and sucked-dry juice boxes that would otherwise end up on the car floor. Once it fills, I throw it out and replace it with a new one.

But the fantasy is so much better. It goes something like this.

Instead of throwing away the next full sack of trash from the car, I keep it for the next time I see someone throw their garbage on the ground and I follow them home. I may end up on quite a journey; a stop by the gas station, the video rental store, who knows. But eventually the person will have to go home. I follow them long enough until I end up right in front of their house as they’re pulling into their driveway. They exit their car and walk toward the door. I honk to catch their attention, roll down my window and hold the bag out. Then, with a smile on my face and glee in my heart, I turn that bag upside down and shake all the contents smack onto their lawn.

Naturally, they start yelling and freaking out. When they ask me what in the world I think I’m doing, I say something really snarky.

“Oh! You don’t mind, do you? I mean, since you seem to think that the street is your personal trash can, and that throwing a Big Gulp cup out your window is perfectly appropriate, I figured you wouldn’t mind if I used your lawn as my personal trash can. I really hate it when the kids leave their juice boxes in the car, know what I mean?”

Then I drive off, singing along with Louis Armstrong.

“I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world….”

Ahhhhhh. Yes, it’s just a fantasy. Nothing that I actually have the nerve to pull off. But it’s something I’d love to do one day.

If I ever did develop the nerve.

And if my husband was in the car with me.



{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Tinkerbell April 10, 2008, 6:44 pm

    Yes, that makes my blood boil, too, but I am not nearly as brave as you! How handy to have a cop for a husband. It sounds like he handled it beautifully. I do not understand people who throw trash anywhere but in a trash can.

  • agardner April 10, 2008, 7:07 pm

    Tracey, I love it! This is one of my biggest pet peeves as well. I love your fantasy – that is exactly what I would love to do as well!

    Just yesterday I witnessed someone littering and I REALLY wanted to say something, but you never know how that will all go down, you know? The guy was walking about 5 feet in front of me, smoking a cigarette (yuck anyway). As he approached the door of the store, he tossed the cigarette butt onto the ground.

    Since when are cigarette butts not trash?? In fact, they are almost the grossest kind of trash because you KNOW they have been in someone’s mouth, they are small and hard to pick up, and just absolutely gross. They also last forever wherever they are thrown.

    Our city recently passed an ordinance making this specific form of littering punishable by up to a $500 fine. I SO wanted to say something but I will admit I’m just too big of a chicken. I do love that my 4 year old said, “he shouldn’t have thrown that down mom!” I hope he heard but don’t think he did.

    Arghh…I know there are bigger problems in the world, but the thing that infuriates me about this is that it is so preventable!

  • Tinkerbell April 10, 2008, 7:46 pm

    The worst thing about cigarette butts is that they are the perfect size for a toddler to pick up.

  • Ray April 10, 2008, 8:14 pm

    and eat

  • Tinkerbell April 10, 2008, 8:23 pm

    Yuck. My kids have never made it that far yet. I would probably throw up if they did.

  • kiar April 10, 2008, 9:06 pm

    I hate that we live in a society that just thinks that they can throw junk down! its insane! and dirty. Good for you doing something about it! I will also jump on the wagon, and begin the crusade for cleaner streets. (I will also bring my heavily armed hubby!)

  • jennycherie April 10, 2008, 9:31 pm

    “I admit foolishness here, because seeing someone do something so disgusting and trashy ? like that makes my blood boil. Strangely, it also causes me to lose any sense of personal safety or rational behavior.”

    I had to read this one out loud to my husband. . . and I admit, I had to stop a few times to snort with laughter :tooth:. I think it brought to mind the time Tracy came to my house and stopped (before coming inside) to holler at some kids at the end of the block who were, if I remember correctly, picking on another kid. I wish I had your boldness, Tracy!

  • Alison Moore Smith April 10, 2008, 9:35 pm

    Once I ran–waving my arms and screaming–through the Orem, Utah, recreation center parking lot because a woman climbed into her car, put her 3-month-old baby on her lap, and drove away.

  • Ray April 10, 2008, 10:23 pm

    Honestly, I read the title and the first part of the post and assumed it was about my “swearing and cursing” post. :angry::wink:

  • facethemusic April 11, 2008, 6:36 am

    “Yes, that makes my blood boil, too, but I am not nearly as brave as you!”

    Thanks Tink. The word “brave” sounds so much better, but lacks that certain je ne sais cois….
    We need a word that also expresses the stupidity that it takes to do some of the things I do. So– is there a word that means “stupidly brave?” 🙂

    Since when are cigarette butts not trash??

    What’s especially annoying about cigarette butts is their propensity to pile up on the curbside. I imagine that it isn’t as common in the Provo area, but if you pull up to a light around here, and there’s a median on the driver’s side, you can guarantee that there’s a plethora of cigarette butts lining the curb. Hundreds if not thousands of them.

    What’s really obnoxious, is when you fuss at someone for throwing a butt out their window, they give you this stupid “They’re biodegradable” nonsense.
    I’m like–Hello? Do you NOT see those thousand or so butts lining the curb? Things don’t “biodegrade” laying on concrete, moron. It can take up to 12 YEARS for those things to finally degrade!! Stick one in a big pile of soil and maybe that time will shorten to 5 or 6 years. But on the concrete? I think everything you learned in physical science blew out your mouth with all the smoke. :devil:

    I think it brought to mind the time Tracy came to my house and stopped (before coming inside) to holler at some kids at the end of the block who were, if I remember correctly, picking on another kid.

    Oh yeah!!! There were two of them , maybe 7th or 8th grade, pushing another kid in front of them, yelling and cussing at him, telling him “you better run boy, I’m going to kick your bleepity, bleepity bleep”.

    I was like– “That’s ENOUGH!! You lay one hand on him, and I’M coming up there!” I honestly don’t know what I would have done. I guess with my big hiney I could’ve just shoved them down and sat on them. Nothing like a little suffocation to break up a fight. :tooth:

    a woman climbed into her car, put her 3-month-old baby on her lap, and drove away.

    Doesn’t that drive you crazy?? My husband’s gotten me on that one too. I yell out the window, “GET THAT KID IN A CAR SEAT!!!!” And my husband’s like– “you’re going to get us killed.”

    Love ya, babe!! :kissing:

  • Tinkerbell April 11, 2008, 8:46 am

    My husband took our kids to a park near the apartments where we used to live. There were other (unsupervised) children there – maybe 10 years old. They were swearing. My husband said something like, “Is that appropriate language?” And those little kids turned a swore at him up and down. No respect at all. On the Today show yesterday, one of the anchors said that she tried to stop some pre-teen age kids from picking on someone, and they turned to her and threatened her. What is going on in this world? It reminds me of the BofM in the last days when children will be our rulers. And, did you hear the two stories about schools this week? In one class, third graders plotted to harm their teacher. Third graders?!?!? In another, a student in a classroom started beating up a teacher and NOONE did anything about it. It is really getting alarming.

  • davidson April 11, 2008, 9:02 am

    Oh, Tracy, thanks for the morning chuckle. I can just see the steam escaping from your little ears.
    I think you should run for President of the United States and get this country whipped into shape!
    You go!

    Ahem. (Blushing.) I don’t make it a point to go around telling people this, but I guess I can tell my friends at Mormon Momma. When I was eleven years old, the state of Idaho held an “Idaho Is Too Great to Litter” contest. Our teachers had all of my classmates and I write a poem on that subject. Long story short, I won the state contest and got to go to the state capital to have dinner with the governor. He presented me with a placque in the shape of the state of Idaho, bearing a metal plate that said “Idaho Is Too Great to Litter.” Each state had a contest like that, and each state’s winner sent his or her poem to the national competition in Washington D.C. They invited me and my parents to come, but we didn’t have enough money for the airfare. We received notice a short while later that my poem had taken the national award, and it was presented in my behalf by none other than Shirley Temple, now Shirley Temple Black, all grown up. Wish I could have seen that.

    Boy. it’s cemented in my brain. You don’t litter. You teach your children not to litter. I have been appalled out how the Saints litter their own chapel, the house of God! Every Sunday I spend some time picking up garbage in the chapel and the halls. Now that spring is here in Idaho and the snow has melted (at least for today), it breaks my heart to see the garbage everywhere. When I was a Scout leader, we always had a spring project to walk along the roads of our town and pick up trash.
    One time one of my Scouts held up a USED CONDOM he found on the side of the road and asked “What is this?” I am so glad he was wearing gloves! All I could muster was, “Here, you can put that in my garbage sack.”

    I’m not a leader of a group like that any more, but I think we’ll have a FHE to do some cleanup. It’s pathetic. Tracy, you’re gutsy. I wish I had the courage to speak up.

  • Tinkerbell April 11, 2008, 9:05 am

    Congratulations davidson. That was quite an accomplishment.

  • davidson April 11, 2008, 9:31 am

    Thank you, dear.

  • Lisa April 11, 2008, 10:23 am

    FTM, you gave me a little trip down memory lane! When I was in High School, a friend and I were driving down the road when we came to a red light, she opened the door, and left her trash right on the road!! I was mortified, but too wimpy at the time to say anything. At that exact moment, an off-duty officer did exactly what your husband did (he was in the car right next to us) It was classic, and I have never forgotten that important lesson!:thumbup:

  • jennycherie April 11, 2008, 12:32 pm

    ” I honestly don’t know what I would have done. ”

    okay your hiney isn’t big enough to squash any middle schooler I’ve seen but I think the shock of a lady yelling at them in the street was enough to do the job. I’ve only done this once – – I typically don’t lose my cool and I do not correct other people’s children unless I am in a situation where it is appropriate (like I’m babysitting or teaching). . . So, my hot button is children walking down the middle of the street instead of on the sidewalk. The street that our elementary school is on is a pretty busy one. It has a sidewalk (on both sides of the street in places) from the school in the direction of our house and LOTS Of kids walk home on this road but hardly any of them use the sidewalk. I do NOT understand why ANYone chooses to walk in the middle of the street when there is a perfectly good sidewalk available. Even more, I REALLY don’t understand why it is so important to saunter, casually down the MIDDLE of the street. Why not at least walk on the side of the road or near the side? Every day, I watch these children leaving school and walking down the middle of the street. It worries me (because cars go really FAST through there, even when kids are in the middle of the street) AND, when they are fooling around, it drives me crazy! I see kids walking backwards, sideways, dancing around and never, ever looking for traffic. Well, last year, I was walking home from school with my kids and Romelo, a classmate of my son, was prancing down the middle of the street fooling around. He and his sister and some other kids were playing at some sort of game and Romelo–not watching–suddenly changed direction and ran right in front of an SUV. The SUV was NOT going fast and was in fact trying to give them a wide berth, but Romelo danced right into the path of the SUV and did not even realize it. Thankfully, the driver was paying attention and slammed on the brakes and no one got hurt. I’m ashamed to say I completely lost it! I don’t remember what I said but I called him by name and gave him a serious dressing down, told him he nearly got himself killed and to keep himself on the sidewalk. I wish I could say that Romelo saw the error of his ways but I am sad to say, he did not. I think all he really saw was a crazy white lady he should try hard to avoid.:shamed::shamed:

  • jendoop April 11, 2008, 1:06 pm

    This definately falls under the ‘teach by example’ rule of parenting. The 4-5 yr old that was in that car hopefully learned a lesson when her mom was corrected by your DH. How great it would be to have a cop for a hubby!! (there are definate drawbacks too) It would have taken all my strength not to roll with laughter while watching her stroll her hot dog wrapper up to the trash.

    Once my daughter complained about all the trash along the route she walked to school. So we picked up garbage for FHE. People looked at us like we were looney, but it was a great way to serve our community and teach our children about responsibility to their community – something rapidly decreasing in our society.

    I completely agree about cigarette butts, I nominate them as the #1 worst litter item.

  • davidson April 11, 2008, 2:56 pm

    My husband’s comment to people who throw their cigarettes in the street? “Get your butt off the road.” (Perfectly legal.)

  • Alison Moore Smith April 11, 2008, 3:45 pm

    davidson, I’m afraid you’ve earned a demerit for typing the “B” word.

  • davidson April 11, 2008, 4:43 pm

    Bring it! Guilty as charged. He also would like to tell people who smoke, “Only you can prevent facial fires.” (Remember Smoky the Bear?)

  • Ray April 11, 2008, 5:52 pm

    One of my favorite lines from my oldest son:

    “Excuse me, sir/ma’am, but your lollipop is on fire.”

  • davidson April 11, 2008, 6:55 pm


  • Lewis_Family April 11, 2008, 8:07 pm

    haha, totally random, I know, but “facial fires” makes me think of an unshaven face…:hugging::grouphug:

  • Michelle D April 12, 2008, 7:02 pm

    Totally annoying! How hard is it to walk to a trash can and throw your stuff away?! Cigarette butts are bad, but gum also drives me crazy. Movie theaters are another place where people just drop things on the floor without thinking twice. I worked in a theater as a teen, behind the candy counter and sweeping up all that junk after the shows. I NEVER do that, and won’t let Ray do it either. I don’t care if that’s what the workers are paid to do! The other thing that drives me nuts is people who won’t put their grocery carts in the stalls in the parking lot — even when they’re parked Right. Next. To. It. Argh! Crazy inconsiderate people!!!

    Davidson, that is a neat honor! What a great memory, even if you weren’t able to meet Shirley Temple Black. Tracy, you’re my courageous hero!

  • Tinkerbell April 12, 2008, 8:44 pm

    Yes, grocery carts in the parking lot is a pet peeve of mine. Since I usually have several kids in tow and am concerned about safety, I always park near a cart aisle so that when I am done shopping, I can strap all the kids in, load the groceries in the car, lock the car, quickly return the cart, and get back in the car with everyone staying safe. Yes, I know I am kind of a safety freak. But, at least I don’t leave the cart in the middle of the lot!

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