The return of Chief Weeping Crybaby

A raised relief map presents topography and contour in three dimensions.

Regular two-dimensional maps can describe the same information with lines and numbers, but they’re boring and not very fun to touch. In similar fashion, when I’m graced with your attention, I hope this column might offer sturdy if slightly misshapen perspectives on developing social concerns and underappreciated cultural minutiae.

I try to take a bead on heady stuff like shifting ideas of responsibility and freedom, the importance of silence, the genius of Bruce Springsteen, the kaleidoscopic failures of Bob Seeger, and the importance of well-fitting trousers. Topics with real gravity.

But sometimes what is required is review, and just some damn maintenance.

To some of you this may be dreadfully redundant, but this column is the only public forum I’ve got, and I need to get something off my chest:

Who the fuck is still littering?

Which of you is actually throwing your trash on the ground and in the creek? Is it you, gentle reader? After all we’ve been through?

This is the 21st century. We are supposed to be on to bigger, more important tasks. An American group just came out with a battery that can store solar energy very efficiently and for long periods, bringing practical clean energy one step closer to reality. Plans for a permanent moon base are under way at NASA. The course of human evolution will soon be changed forever by nanotechnology. And you’re still chucking empties out of your truck?

The Native American chief standing in a pile of trash, crying his damn eyes out, wasn’t enough for you? Really?

My shock that people still leave their trash lying around is due to unfamiliarity. I don’t know people who regularly litter. So I took it upon myself to conduct an informal and totally unscientific survey of litter, so that I might better understand whom I’m dealing with.

Using Victorian-era deduction, rank induction, some convection and a 12-sided die, I have compiled a brief personality profile of your average litterbug:

He is a male between the ages of 4 and 60 who smokes roughly four packs of Pall Malls a day. He prefers Miller Lite and Steel Reserve to expensive imports. Covering long distances quickly, he travels alone or in packs of up to 100, getting most of his calories from Doritos, his protein from Slim Jims. He finds it more efficient to buy cheap, squeaky Styrofoam coolers every week, crush them up into little pieces, and toss them into the creek than to shell out $10 for a Playmate cooler. He enjoys long, quiet walks deep in the forest for which he brings a small suitcase full of Monster and Rock-Star energy drinks. He frequently reads and enjoys Velocity and the Boat/RV edition of Bargain Mart.

Not too shabby, but totally incomplete.

I recently noticed a very attractive woman in a sharp-looking power suit talking on a cell phone in her compact SUV. I watched with increasing horror as her slender, manicured hand extended out of the window to drop an empty Taco Bell bag on the street. It was followed in due course by a medium-size cup drained of soda, the whole despicable act terminating in an elegant flick of dainty fingers. Gotta keep that sweet ride and them pretty hands clean, right?

It was lucky for the dozy broad in question that the light turned green before I could cross the street. I’m not so grown up that I won’t resort to the juvenile, street-level guerilla intimidation of my youth.

I’m not ashamed to say that I have, on more than one occasion, approached the vehicle of a litterbug at an intersection, picked up the errant Mountain Dew bottle from the ground, thrown it back into the driver’s lap, and with head slightly tilted, stared into his eyes wordlessly.

These brief and admittedly awkward encounters usually elicit looks of total confusion peppered with light to moderate fear, and are punctuated by the chirp of tires squealing at the first glimpse of green from the stoplight dangling obliviously overhead. Bush-league vigilantism? Perhaps, but I would like to encourage it. Let’s not be afraid to call a spade a spade, or an asshole an asshole.

How often are we given the opportunity to say with declarative certainty that something is wrong? Give it a try. If you end up getting in a fistfight, I’ll buy you a Slim Jim.