Michael Thomason

Michael Thomason

I was sitting in the Walmart parking lot recently, people watching as Judy shopped inside. It was a typical August afternoon, maybe 100 degrees outside, blast furnace hot. You see all sorts of humanity coming and going from the entry doors. Most folks seemed just regular people like me, some more so, some less so.

A handsome young couple came strolling out of the store. Unlike many who go to Walmart looking like they just got out of bed, this couple was well groomed and well dressed. It is nice to see folks who care enough about themselves to dress as if they had pride in their appearance. Lord have mercy there are some slouchy people out there among us! I know now why Judy always looks me over before I get out in public.

The girl walked around to the driver’s side while the young man waited for her to unlock his door. He eased his trim frame in the passenger seat of the sporty car. Others walked by coming and going. About then, the passenger door opened again and a tied-up plastic bag dropped to the asphalt beside the car. They drove off. I wondered for a bit if they would notice the bag had fallen out. Maybe it held groceries or some other purchase. Maybe they would miss the package and come looking for it.

Then another car swung into the empty parking spot and ran over the bag, scattering its contents all over the spot. It was general trash from the inside of a car, old French fries, hamburger paper and Styrofoam containers, empty soda bottles, wadded up napkins, banana peels, etc. The wind blew it around a bit.

I have noticed this odd behavior in people from time to time, people who dislike trash so much they dump it on others. We used to call them litterbugs, but that to me sounds too cutesy and humorous. People who throw out trash like that are just trashy people, to my mind. The contents of the bag were soon scattered everywhere, and some folks had to dodge and step over them as they tumbled across the parking lot. No one tried to pick up any of it and place it in a nearby garbage can. But then again, who in their right mind would; or should?

Sooner or later, that trash would find a place to gather, whether up against a fence or in a ditch, but sooner or later somebody who did not make the mess would have to clean up the mess. Or perhaps I have it all wrong. Maybe nobody anywhere has to ever clean up. Just let trash pile up and ignore the mess. Is it just me, or does littering up public spaces bug you? I wondered how the smart and stylishly dressed couple would react if made to come back and clean up after themselves? They would probably deny everything while acting all offended and belligerent. Indeed, it was a small thing, not a big crime, so maybe I’m overreacting. But small things add up and the indifference bugged me. Maybe I’m just older now and have a different attitude. Or maybe the young couple were simply well-dressed slobs.

This whole casual attitude to leaving trash behind for someone else to deal with reminded me of a trip back in the day, visiting a beautiful island paradise. The first thing I noticed as we entered the bay was trash floating around in the beautiful blue water and up against a low seawall. You could tell it had been there a while by the waterline marks on floating plastic containers. Later, we drove past a two-story school. There was a narrow ledge below the second story windows, maybe 12 inches wide. All the windows were open and you could see students inside at their desks. One of the youngsters was eating something. He finished the treat and with his free hand, dropped the sticky paper out the window to the ledge below. He didn’t look where he was dropping it or give it any mind. He gave no more thought to dropping the trash out the window than if shooing away a fly. I noticed that the entire ledge, maybe sixty feet long or more, was piled as high with trash as it could hold, a little triangle of debris consisting of fruit and peels and paper and every other item that makes up what we call trash. Sooner or later, somebody somewhere was going to have to clean up that mess. Judging from the general appearance of the area, from bay to schoolyard, perhaps not. They were teaching their children more than they knew. You get what you expect. Near as I can tell.

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