True confession brings a message to younger people
Hinsdale 11/20/07 Western Springs Columnist: Vicki Gonia Doings photo by Steve Johnston
Updated: August 13, 2012 9:36AM
I have to make a terrible confession. I was once a litterbug.
In my defense, it was the eighties. Alright, that’s a terrible, nonsensical defense. There really is no defense for tossing my garbage out the window of my car no matter where I was driving. Fast-food wrappers? Out the window. Cigarette pack wrappers? Out the window. No gutter, no street, no town was safe from my detritus. (Frankly, my car used to be a lot cleaner than it is these days).
By the nineties, I’d straightened up and had ceased most of my littering, of the big stuff at least. But it was as late as 1993, when out on a date and letting the cellophane from a fresh pack of cigarettes flutter from my fingertips out the window, and getting a less-than-enthusiastic response from my date (who must have forgiven me, since he did eventually marry me), when I finally got it. Up until that point, if I’d thought about it at all, even sub-consciously, it was: “That garbage is now out of my sight.”
But I was finally able to widen my life’s focus from where it had always been, on a 2-foot radius of my own special self to the wider world. And I suddenly realized that the wider world was strewn with my Chicken McNugget boxes, my empty cigarette packs, my soda cans, my water bottles. If you’d asked me, “Who do you think cleans up after you?” I would have just shrugged. I hadn’t a clue, and hadn’t ever given it a second thought. Or even a first thought.
Gross. And shameful, really.
I can be slow to catch on at times, and because of that, once I’ve finally figured things out, I assume that everyone else in the world already knows what I just figured out, and this is why it astonishes me every time I see a bunch of garbage rolling down a street in Western Springs, or a bag of beer cans dumped on someone’s parkway.
Of course, there’s no way to know for sure whether it’s young people or adults tossing garbage out of their car windows, but I think it’s probably safe to assume that anyone dumping a garbage bag full of empty Coors Light cans is probably under the age of 21.
Adults don’t have any problem putting their empty cans in the recycling bin in their own home, because they’re not afraid of getting caught. You know, because we’re allowed to drink beer.
Kids, however, have to hide it. Can’t put it in mom and dad’s recycling bin, because they’ll wonder where all that Coors Light came from (or Busch Light, the other seeming favorite amongst the roadside dumping set). Don’t want to get caught with it in their car (an empty beer can might be considered an open container). Don’t want to get caught tossing it in a garbage can.
I’m not the only person to be disturbed by what seems like a sharp increase in the amount of plastic garbage bags full of beer cans appearing mysteriously on parkways all over town. I got a call from a reader and longtime Western Springs resident last week who expressed his own disgust. He said (and I paraphrase): “They’ve got the guts to take the risk of getting the beer and drinking it, but they don’t have the guts to get the empty cans into a garbage can?”
I would like to believe that it’s simply fear that keeps kids from taking the step of disposing of their party garbage properly. But is it fear? Or simply laziness, and a lack of concern?
And it’s not just party garbage, either. The above referenced reader has also noticed a proliferation of water bottles and other garbage around the LT South Campus, especially the sports fields. Who is leaving all this stuff behind? And who on earth do those litterbugs think is going to clean up after them?
There are a variety of reasons why one might be a litterbug. None of the reasons are acceptable. Back in the eighties, concern for the environment was the domain of hippies and scientists. But there’s not a day that goes by now when we’re not seeing news stories about the affects humans have on their environment. By now, we should all know better.
And it’s not just about the health of the planet, either. It’s about pride of one’s home town. Respect for public and private property, and respect for the people who have to walk out of their homes to find garbage bags full of beer cans on their lawns.
Jeez, kids. At least put it in a blue bag.
Readers can contact Viki Gonia by leaving a message at (708) 824-8027 or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.