I scoop my dog’s poop, and because I have poop bags readily available, I also scoop the trash people with poor home-training throw out in my neighborhood. For some reason I’m not bothered by the napkins and fast-food cups, but I do wonder about the folks who pitch the litter and why their mommas didn’t teach them better.
One day I took the dogs out to pee and saw a red car U-turning in front of my house while its passenger was busy ditching drive-through garbage out the window. I yelled out in exasperation, “Guys, don’t throw your trash out here. We don’t do that in this …….” I bit off the word “neighborhood” because I realized I was yelling at a black kid. Our little town is still fairly segregated, so I knew I sounded like I, the old white woman, was pointing out a great racial divide in public behavior, which was not my intention. I was merely intending to let these people know folks don’t do that in town.
The car straightened out in the road and stopped. The black kid looked out his window, then opened the door. I thought of all the horror stories in our local paper, the drive-by shootings, the kids killed at four-way stops. All of this was just a jumble when this kid sprung out of his car. Instead of lunging at me, he headed for the burger wrappers and the French fry box.
“You don’t have to do that,” I said. I had just wanted them to know not to do it again. “I would have picked it up.”
“She threw it out…I can pick it up,” he said, sliding back into his car with the trash. “No problem.”
I thought at his age I would have been embarrassed and thus angry if I had been reprimanded by some old woman yelling, and I might have considered bringing back some real trash, just to show her.
But that kid—he’s another one of those chance encounters I’ll remember forever. I knew I had become a trifle obsessive about litter, but somebody had taught that kid right. While I was channeling Lady Bird Johnson during her Beautify America stage, he was channeling Gandhi.