Saturday, September 19

Rage Over a Little Thing

I spent all morning picking up trash at a local park with my son. We volunteered for my church a couple weeks back and I forgot all about it until I got an email on Thursday reminding me to show up at 9am wearing the appropriate attire. (I'm tentatively a Unitarian Universalist, but that's a topic for another post. Let's just stick to the good Samaritan act for the moment.)

I found, that over the course of the three hours that I was picking up debris, in a beautiful location, with my eager son in tow, with wildlife and happiness all around me, when I should have been at most at peace in the world, that I was absolutely angry. I mean, I was fuming vile exhaust out of various orifices. I wanted to stab a puppy with a fork, that's how pissed off I was.

A little history: I'm an Eagle Scout, which means I spent a lot of time camping and hiking, plus doing random service projects. Every one of those campouts we had to leave the campsite in a better condition than we found it, which means all of us would have to sweep the area right before it was time to go home, and pick up not only our refuse, but also the trash of anyone else who had ever pitched a tent there. In addition, many of those projects were things like "Help Joe Brown clean up Random Park so he can Earn His Star Badge."

Thus, I've spent a lot of time picking up other people's waste. And by far, the worst, and I mean most atrocious offender in the garbage world is by far the cruddy cigarette butt. I can without a doubt say, without hesitation, that any smoker who has ever thrown a butt on the ground: I hate you.

I don't hate smoking. Do whatever you want to your person. I don't care. Your body is your temple to desecrate at your discretion. I don't even really care about secondhand smoke in a lot of instances, like if you are outside or in a designated area. (I think being unable to smoke in a bar is idiotic.)

But the moment you throw a cigarette butt on the ground, I despise you. That's not your vice talking, that's your responsibility. That's you directly saying to the rest of the world that you don't give a crap about the ground, the earth, the people around you, everyone else that has to share that space with you, and anyone like me that has to come along and pick up after your substandard life.

Your first instinct might be to dismiss me as being hysterical over nothing. However, let me give an analogy: let's say you picked up some sandwiches, went to the park, and were about to sit down at the table and eat with your family, but lo and behold, you notice a small collection of about fifty hypodermic needles and used condoms spread around in the dirt. Are you going to sit down at that table, let alone let your toddler play in that? Nope, you'd be just as pissed as me, and you wouldn't nonchalantly accept it either. You'd be enraged too.

Now multiply that times the experience of my life, where I haven't just picked up one or three cigarette butts, but maybe in the order of thousands. Then you start to get where my anger leads to the dark side leads to choking people with my thoughts mentality is coming from.

I'm also well aware that I'm contradictory, in that I want the world to be a peaceful place, and I'm violent with my words (and sometimes with my actions). I get that it's confusing. Like anyone else, I'm not Jesus, I'm not Ghandi, I'm not Mother Teresa. So when I say I want people who throw cigarette butts on the ground to die in a fiery blaze, I mean it with all the best intentions.

So maybe certain smokers can choose to be accountable for their actions, and find a way to fix it. Then when my son asks "Why do people throw cigarette butts on the ground?" I don't have to say, "Because they're Meanies," which is three-year-old for saying that they are jackasses.

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