Pick of the Litter

Pick of the Litter

Many years ago I set a small goal for myself, to pick up one piece of litter every day. While I was still teaching there were few days when I didn’t pass by garbage walking from my car to the school. I would often gather up two or three items – this would make up for the weekends when, perhaps, I wasn’t in a litter zone. Now that I am retired I usually carry out my one-a-day ritual when in the city. I figure if one in ten people picked up a piece of garbage every tenth day then we would be close to having litter-free communities.

Last weekend I was in the city and had a number of stops to make. As I was nearing a parking spot outside a mall I noticed a man walking across the lot. At one point he stopped, bent down and pick up a cardboard coffee tray that had been discarded. I rolled my window down and thanked him for doing so. We both agreed that this world would be a better place if people were more considerate. This reminded me of an incident that took place ten years earlier.

I had been awarded an educational leave (sabbatical). I would be participating in a French Immersion course in the north of the province. In anticipation of this I enrolled in a conversational French class at the local college. I was hoping to recapture some of the language skills I had learned when in high school. Classes were once a week.

Each night on my way to class I would stop at a coffee shop not far from the college. On this particular evening I saw something that was rather upsetting. As my car was approaching a parking spot I noticed am arm extend from a vehicle and a cardboard coffee tray and paper bag were dropped on the ground. I couldn’t believe it. By the time I pulled up beside the car the window had been closed. I decided to be part of the solution.

Now I must admit that when I looked over at the vehicle I expected to see some teenagers (sorry teenagers – I admit that I was stereotyping). To my surprise I saw an elderly couple in the car. I rolled my window down and pointed to the ground.

You dropped something. Something fell out of your car.”

The woman looked at me. She turned to the man seated in the driver’s seat. He leaned ahead and looked at me.

Something fell out of your car”, I repeated.

The window was lowered. I again pointed to the ground, “Something fell out of your car.”

They looked at each other. By this time I had stepped out of my vehicle.

The woman said, “It’s garbage. I meant to toss it.”

I stood still. I gave them the best basset hound face I could muster. “You mean, you meant to litter?”

……… YES”, she replied in a rather stern voice.

The man looked like he wanted to punch me; but hey, I didn’t do anything wrong. I was playing the good guy.

How about this. I’ll pick it up for you and place it in the garbage can over there.”

She hesitated. In the same voice she said, “OK.”

As I picked up the tray and bag they drove off. I watched them leave then disposed of the garbage.

By doing so I had met my litter picking quota for the next two days. I felt pretty good.

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