April 14, 2000
The other day while stopped at a red light just off a main highway in my area, I used the time while waiting to take a look around. The one thing that struck me was the amount of garbage, debris and discarded items that were lying along the berm of the road. Here is just a brief sample of what I saw.

There must have been at least two hundred cigarette butts within a thirty foot stretch. I've often wondered why people who smoke don't just put their butts in the ashtrays of their vehicles. It's not as if throwing the butts out the window will make their car smell any better. The one thing I've wanted to do for a long time is the next time I see someone toss their cigarette from their window is to find out where they live then gather all the cigarette butts I can find and dump them on their lawn with a little note asking how it feels to have used cigarettes on their property. To all you smokers, quit being lazy and keep your butts to yourself.

The other thing that I saw was a fair amount of broken glass lying along the edge of the road. This is easy to account for as, like cigarette butts, people are too lazy to hold onto their empty bottles until they can find a place to throw them out. I'm also sure that some of this debris was the result of rear-end collisions by inattentive drivers as some of this glass was red and therefore not really glass but high density plastic light covers for taillights.

Kitchen utensils. I've have always wondered how it is possible to see just one utensil lying along the road. In this case it was a butter knife but I've seen a single fork also. How did just that one item get there and what about its partners? It's not like the knife or fork goes bad and has to be discarded (unless you use them improperly). Can anyone shed some light on this subject?

Socks and gloves. I'm sure everyone at one time or another has seen a single sock or glove lying around. Like the kitchen untensil, how did it get there? Maybe a better question would be, if it was thrown out by someone, why just one? Why not both? Of course, the fact that you see just one sock or glove may solve the mystery of why you always have a mismatched pair of either when you wash the laundry. What happens in reality is that a temporal vortex is created inside your washing machine which sucks in only one of matched pair and deposits this loner on a highway somewhere in the United States.

Other items that I saw included pieces of rusted metal (unidentifiable as to what they belonged to), pieces of rubber and rubber straps, cardboard of all shapes, sizes and in all conditions, wood bits and discarded chewing gum. All this at a highway off-ramp.

The thing that all of these items have in common is that people threw them there. It's physically impossible for a sock, glove, fork or knife to just leap from the car. Suicide just isn't in their design. No, someone had to make the effort to be a lazy ass and throw the item from their vehicle. They couldn't wait until they found a trash bin to throw them out. They just discarded the item without a thought as to what becomes of it once it leaves their hand.

I remember, as hopefully many of you do as well, about twenty-five years ago a commercial that used to run on television showing people just tossing their garbage along the highway. At the end of the commercial they showed a native american indian standing their and a tear running down his cheek. For me, that has to rank as one of the all-time greatest government produced commercials. It's message was clear: don't use the road as your trashbin.

The biggest problem regarding this whole trash situation is that we as Americans, for the most part, just don't care. We don't care what we throw out. Once it leaves our hand it's not our problem anymore. One has to wonder if these peoples homes look the same way, trash strewn about without a care how things look. Of course, judging by the way some of their cars look their homes probably do look like the side of the road.

Folks, it's not that difficult to wait until you find a trash bin to throw your stuff out. Having to wait that extra ten or fifteen minutes is not going to kill you. Specifically, to you smokers out there, if you have to smoke in the car and don't want your butts lying in the ashtray, get a metal or ceramic bowl and put your refuse there. Then, when you get home, you can simply throw them all out at the same time and then wash the container out.

Like oil, there is only a finite amount of land on this planet. Our continually throwing more and more of our refuse onto and into it is not doing anyone, or anything, any good. We need to be more aware of what happens when we throw something out our window. Sure, paper, cardboard and even glass will eventually degrade but cigarette filters and plastic won't.

I'm not suggesting that we become treehugging hippies and abandon all our worldly possessions in favor of preserving this planet. What I am suggesting is that we realize that the highways and roads are not equivalent to trash bins. Put another way, you wouldn't want someone tossing their garbage on your lawn so don't throw yours on the road. No one wants to see how lazy you are.

With a little effort and thought we can make our roads a pleasure to drive on (excluding those who feel that driving with their lights off in the rain is acceptable). There is no reason to be so lazy as to toss your junk onto the highway. If you think it's acceptable to do so, put a sign in your yard declaring that others can toss their garbage on your property. See how long you like it.