Thursday, December 18, 2008

#2 - Top 5 Totally Uncool Things About My Neighborhood


I’ll not likely confess it to their faces but my parents managed to teach me at least two things – 1) be kind to animals and 2) don’t litter.

Other than quick and easy access to Slurpees® the other upside to living just around the corner from a 7-11 is that as late as 7:35 I can run out for a Lotto ticket in time for the 7:45 draw.

The downside is the constant collection of debris from any fool who happens to finish his Slurpee® or chili dog or push-up pop in the time it takes to reach our house. The wrappings are left on our retaining wall

and on the sidewalk or gutter.

The worst is when they think they can hide their offense by tucking their trash into my plantings.

Who raised these pigs? (no offence to our swine friends is intended.)

Never in my life have I left a piece of trash where it didn’t belong. How much effort is there in either spotting a waste bin or simply carrying it to your final destination?

Let’s not do the math but I remember Lady Bird Johnson’s "Keep America Beautiful" campaign. You know, I think it did some good. It taught me that it wasn’t just my parents who held anti-litter beliefs. The campaign created a cultural awareness that a) America is beautiful and b) each of us is responsible for keeping it that way.

If I wear my bleeding heart liberal cap then I can look into the likely causes of littering – feelings of disenfranchisement and inattentive upbringing. If the first, I’m pretty sure the litterbugs are not homeowners. They feel no sense of investment and are not particularly concerned with the fact that while they are wandering the streets, enjoying their repast from 7-11, I am spending a huge chunk of my day either at work or commuting to/from work and I have little free time to clean up after them.

And so, they blight their own neighborhoods, making the upwardly mobile less likely to buy in, thwarting gentrification.

Not everyone is pro-gentrification and many are actively anti-. But everyone who owns a home is pro-increasing the resale value of his or her home. I don’t plan on selling my house any time soon but there are a few For Sale signs up in my neighborhood. I don’t want those houses on the market indefinitely and I certainly don’t want potential good neighbors discouraged because they see a bunch of food wrappers tucked into hedges. I want new neighbors who will make the effort to take care of their new homes. I want the kind of neighbors who don’t want to live in a neighborhood littered with trash.

I’m not saying I’m pro-gentrification but I don’t want this neighborhood to revert to the gang-y ghetto it was a few years ago.

But if the litterbugs are not invested in the community, then there is no incentive for them to keep the neighborhood moving upward. In fact, there is the disincentive of rising rents. But I don’t believe that the litterbugs are thinking it out this far. I do believe that they don’t think they owe me anything. They don’t believe they have a responsibility to me or to their own neighborhood. I’m sure they don’t even realize the power they have – that they themselves contribute to urban blight. They don’t realize that they have the power to live in a better neighborhood simply by not making it a worse neighborhood.

And there is the conundrum. They, the litterbugs, are not truly disenfranchised; not at all without power. They have power. The have as much power as any of us and they wield it all the time. They just don’t know it.

Lady Bird, where are you? Teach us your lessons again.


Christopher Busta-Peck said...

I'd be inclined to return the refuse to the place of business from whence it came. Clearly they have some, however small, responsibility for what people do with their products.

Of course, I wouldn't do this, but I'd mutter and grumble about it, which would make me feel better.

Jayne said...

"They don’t believe they have a responsibility to me or to their own neighborhood." Exactly right, and well said. My mom lives across the street from a convenience store (which was not there when Mom & Dad built their house almost 50 years ago) and she's constantly picking up trash from the front yard. Lottery tickets, cups, cigarette packs, plastic's awful. Part of the problem is that the new owners of the c-store don't sweep their parking lot, so whatever gets thrown down eventually blows into Mom's yard. I'm sorely tempted to use my big shop broom and sweep it all back across the street, "from whence it came" as Chrisopher says. Instead, like him, I'm grumbling about it.

Why S? said...

Sometimes I think there should be a special deposit on wrappers from items sold at convenience stores. People might return their trash if they knew they'd collect their deposit. But I think we will just have to keep grumbling.

NV said...

You are SO very right, Why! Unfortunately, I think your theory plays out on a much larger scale. Where IS the sense of accountability or personal responsibility for ANYTHING??? I'm appalled at the number of examples I encounter on a regular basis. I'm totally sick of the It's All About ME mentality. Sometimes, it IS about you (not you specifically, you generally) and you are an a**hole.
Your post shows the snowball effect of the small It's All About ME approach to life.

Sally said...

Bungahigh is also neighbored by a store; a secondhand store. My driveway often doubles as a landfill.

::empathic sigh::

Why S? said...

NV, I think the boomers are often blamed for raising the ME generation. I like to think I would have done a better job of parenting. But then, I'm not the warm and fuzzy type so it might have been easier for me to mete out a little discipline.

Sally, you have double my sympathy about the second hand store. At least with my trash, I can easily pick it up and toss in the trash. You must have real "stuff" to deal with.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

Now that I've had the experience of picking up the unending supply of litter in my own yard, I feel a bit differently about the whole subject. I don't think that I have quite so much as you do, but still, there's enough to be annoying.

More annoying is that I can't figure out where it's coming from. My neighbors don't seem the sort to be making the trash, and there aren't any convenient stores nearby. And then there are things like the little plastic bubble pipe that just showed up in my back yard - I know that there haven't been kids running around there in quite a while.

Gremlins. I blame it on gremlins. What else could explain it?

Why S? said...

Christopher, I wonder if it blows in from trash pick-up? Sometimes, on a windy day I'll see trash being dumped into trucks and some lighter pieces will be caught by the wind. You could have gremlins of air currents.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

I don't think it's from trash day. They're extremely fussy about the disposal of trash here - everything has to be in a closed bag in a lidded garbage can or they won't pick it up.

It's the gremlins.

Why S? said...

Christopher, I'm sure you're right then. It can't be anything but gremlins. Do you think you'll have to disclose that when you sell?

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

Do I have to disclose them? I'm thinking I'll just say that I haven't been able to conclusively locate any gremlins on the premises.