Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trashy guy hungering for a litter free neighborhood

I apologize in advance for what I’m about to write because I know it’s bound to sound really, really elitist and we all know how evil elitists are -- at least until we need a couple of them to clean up an incomprehensible $700 billion market collapse.

That being said, here goes:

McDonald’s Restaurants attract trash.

That may sound harsh, but I can prove it. I know because this summer I reached a breaking point about litter in my neighborhood and by my neighborhood, I mean anywhere that’s roughly the width of a sidewalk of where I’m walking.

I do a lot of strolling. Always have. I don’t believe in the no pain/no gain method of exercising. In fact, if something’s even the least bit painful, I stop right away and head to the nearest tavern for soothing refreshment.

I know too many middle aged people like me who suffer painful accidents trying to stay in shape. I have no intention of snapping my Achilles tendon playing basketball, getting shin splints playing tennis, or pulling a muscle while jogging.

I’m so careful I forfeit any activity that’s likely to result in armpit sweat stains.

So for exercise, I walk. I amble. I saunter. I sidle. I tromp. I ramble. I hoof. I gambol. It’s perfectly pleasant and it exercises the mind as much as the midsection. I wave to the old people sitting on the porches, admire the changing seasons and generally commune with my little corner of the world.

But if you walk anyplace in this overcrowded world these days, you’re likely to trip over trash. This happens to me a lot. It never fails to amaze me how many people will simply drop a cup, cigarette pack or Biggie Sized french fry container on the ground rather than walk a few yards to a nearby trash container.

It’s not like there’s a shortage of them either. Heck, you could argue that the world’s practically littered with litter receptacles, too.

Being an observant sort, I couldn’t help but notice how much litter I literally had to step over.

On the way to the grocery store with my daughter, I counted three pieces of idle trash directly between our parked car and the front door. Had I stumbled along in a drunken weave the number would have risen to about eight.

No more, I thought. I bent to pick up each one that was in my way. Josie, who at the age of 8 is already beginning to sense what a torturous embarrassment I’m going to be to her in about two years, asked why I was picking up trash that wasn’t mine.

“It’s not my trash. But it’s my neighborhood. It’s my planet. We all do little things to keep our homes clean. Why shouldn’t we do little things to keep our town clean?”

This made perfect sense, but little did I realize the danger of my logic. I began taking a plastic bag on my walks and picking up any trash in my way. I’ve become sort of a hobby garbageman. I do all the duties noble garbagemen do -- pick up and dispose of trash -- but I do them for free.

And I wonder how many off-duty garbagemen pick up trash in their spare time. Or are they like professional golfers who can’t stand the thought of playing golf on vacation? I’d like to know.

And that brings me to McDonald’s. I tell you, the place is a trash magnet.

The Pond, the friendly tavern above which I work, has very clean parking lots. That’s a credit to the owner, his employees and customers, and to all the parents who raised them.

McDonald’s is another matter entirely. The place is practically surrounded by ugly brown trash cans stationed there like North Korean soldiers standing guard duty over the De-Militarized Zone, but you can practically wade through the trash there. And trash bearing the McDonald’s logo stretches for a mile in both directions.

I stoop down and pick it all up.

What is it about McDonald’s trash that it can’t make its way into the trash cans so near and needy? Is it McDonald’s customers who themselves are trashy? Were they raised by ravenous wolves? Is there something in the special sauce that makes McDonald's customers so careless about simple civic matters? Who knows?

I thought about this during a long walk this morning and all I know is this.

I’ve suddenly got a hankering for a Big Mac and fries.

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