Not long ago, the window of a vehicle four cars ahead of me rolled down, and a male arm stretched out. It was holding fast-food wrappers and a bag. The driver dropped what he was holding on the ground near his car as it was sitting at a traffic light. This kind of stuff happens often in Louisiana. It’s what the few, the proud, the litterers, do.
A few seconds later, the same arm reappeared, this time holding onto a drink cup, straw included, and then the driver tossed it a few feet away, where it came apart on the ground.
His arm quickly came out, yet again. The arm tossed another soft drink cup to the ground. I don’t know the contents — diet or regular — of either cup. But within 30 seconds — a possible record for one-armed littering — this person had made what was a nice clean stretch of a neighborhood into a sorry-looking trash marred area.
What’s also sad was that he made the next traffic light, and I didn’t. I wanted to get the license plate so I could turn him in.
This is another of my occasional rants about litter nuts.
As always, I am perplexed by motoring litterers because I have no doubt that there is a trash can where the litterer is headed. And, where they left, there probably was a trash can, too.
I wonder if when they are eating at home, do they throw food on the floor between the den and the kitchen? Or when they go outside, do they toss paper bags in their front yards or in the yards of the residences they are visiting? That can be some sort of experiment in human behavior.
It would be interesting for scientists to get into the minds of litterbugs to see what makes them tick. Is there some sort of underlying gratification they get from throwing crap in their neighborhoods and those of others? And does dumping their litter in parks, in lakes and rivers provide them with some sort of hidden pleasure that the rest of us are missing?
It’s nothing like driving down the highway only to see some idiot — err, fine human being, let go of bags of trash on the side of the highway. Why? I wonder what would be their reaction if they saw someone throwing trash in their yards.
Luckily, sometimes these litterbugs are caught and hauled before a judge. Hey, judges, if you have to sentence one of these litterers, add a penalty that they must allow people to throw litter into their car. Or, if they own a home, the public can come by on specially allotted days and throw crap in their yards, and they must clean their yard that same day or face even more fines.
But it doesn’t stop with the streets. Some of our parks have been trashed. Go to some of the canals around town. Folks drop wrappers in store parking lots, and that stuff finds its way into canals and streams, blocking up areas, creating flooding situations.
It costs local and state governments millions of dollars to clean this up. That’s money that could be used to pave roads and clear blighted areas.
I betcha the litterers teach their children to do the same thing, a family trait passed down from generation to generation.
Littering parent: Listen Johnny, watch Daddy and Mommy throw our hamburger wrappers and other trash along the highway. And, don’t forget you can do the same in someone’s yard. That’s really good.
Child: But why Daddy?
Littering parent: Because we don’t want this stuff in our vehicle, so it's easy for us to trash someone’s street or yard. Somebody will pick it up eventually and, if not, it’s not our problem. And, when the trash causes a ditch or canal to overflow, we can say “We did that!”
Child: Awesome! Daddy, can I throw this cup out of the window?
Littering parent: Go ahead son, show us your stuff. And throw this plastic bottle out of the window, too. You are making us and your Nana so proud!
As residents of Louisiana, it’s our duty to report violators of our state’s little laws. If you witness littering or illegal dumping violations, report those responsible by calling the state’s anti-litter hotline at 1-888-LIT-R-BUG (1-888-548-7284).
Please report these litterbugs. There are many Nanas who would be very proud of you.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly column, at email@example.com.