“ 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.