Originally published in the Journal Inquirer Tuesday, June 10, 2014
By Kristen J. Tsetsi
Dear person who threw that piece of trash out of your car window and onto the road, or onto the happy median bright with fresh summer flowers, or onto the sidewalk three feet from a trash can,
I saw you.
But I’m sure you don’t care. You do what you want.
Never mind that you probably had room in your car for one little piece of trash and that you could have reasonably held onto it until you reached a location with one of those bins or buckets designed for such things.
Never mind that you probably know how unseemly, rude, and irresponsible it is to wantonly discard your refuse in a publicly used space.
Never mind that these public spaces would look like the inside one of those containers designed specifically for trash if everyone decided, as you have, that the whole world is their garbage receptacle.
And never mind that your behavior is a first-impression confirmation of how self-absorbed and self-important you are.
Never mind all that, because you don’t care. You do what you want.
(A woman I once approached after I saw her litter said that to me: “I do what I want.”)
Maybe I’m not being fair.
Maybe you’re nothing like her.
It’s possible I’m simply not seeing the beauty of what you might believe is a unique contribution.
Were I a refuse enthusiast, say, I might very much enjoy the sun-spotted walking path flanked by soft, tall grasses serving as nesting for crumbled hamburger wrappers and empty Red Bull cans.
If I try, I can see how the sun reflects off the cans so brightly, the shimmer catching the eye just so.
And I would probably find something startlingly magnificent in the slow roll of the empty foam coffee cup you threw in the middle of the intersection. Side to side, side to side it wobbles, the wind drift of passing cars creating a soothing, rhythmic coffee-cup dance.
That straw wrapper tossed from a car after the drink was purchased at the drive through, rather than serving as a glaring symbol of your lazy carelessness, might instead be looked upon as a human-made sanitation preserver as delicate as a flower stem, proud evidence of our superior manufacturing prowess.
And I dare not ignore what could possibly be viewed as the absolute wonder, the sublime exquisiteness, of the undulating plastic grocery store bag caught on a tree branch. In the gentlest breeze it waves like a banner of freedom and independence, a symbol to all that yet another great American has broken free of society’s silly expectations of basic consideration and even just a shred of community pride.
I’m sure these people exist, the ones who enjoy your droppings, but enough about them. What about your own happiness and satisfaction? That’s an important consideration, too.
Why, I can just see you driving day after day past the French fry container you lobbed out the window, gleefully exclaiming, “It’s still there!”
Yes. It’s still there. The piece of you that you have chosen to share with the rest of us continues to glare out at the world long after it’s been covered in street grime, flattened by tires, and pulped by rain. That piece of trash is still there.
You’ve made your mark.