Recently, I was driving on Earhart Boulevard near the old Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans. It was lunch time, and I was in the right lane headed toward the bridge. The traffic stopped for the light at Claiborne Avenue. In the left lane a few cars ahead was a large office supply company truck.
As we waited for the light, a hand popped out of the passenger side window of the truck and dropped a white paper bag to the ground. It didn’t seem to matter to the person that everyone saw this disrespectful and trifling display. I shook my head in disgust. However, the laboring litterer wasn’t finished. A few seconds later the hand appeared again, this time dropping a freshly eaten chicken bone to the ground.
I’d had enough. I called the number on the truck and reported the incident to the company dispatcher. She informed me that the truck had a tracking system and that she would surely be able to tell who it was. She apologized for the employee’s actions and assured me it would be dealt with. While this incident was egregious, sadly it happens all too often in the city. For proof, just drive down any street that has just witnessed a public event, whether it’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade or a Super Sunday second line.
At the end of the day, when everyone is gone, what remains all over the street, sidewalks and neutral grounds are mounds of trash — paper, bottles, cups and even discarded food like boiled crawfish scraps and the tossed chicken bone on Earhart. The ability of people to simply discard their trash where they stand speaks not only to a lack of respect for their city but, as well for their neighbors, homes and businesses in the areas where they leave their litter.
In contrast, I was in Montreal, Canada, for the annual jazz festival some years ago. In the center of town, tens of thousands of people moved in and out of the area all day. At the end of the day, when everyone was gone, you could count on one hand the pieces of trash in the street. Here, we judge the success of local events like Mardi Gras by how much trash we collect from the street. The producers of these events should be held accountable for the litter left behind, but an even better solution would be for people to simply show some respect for their city, their neighbors and themselves — and not litter.