I just completed 69 years of life. I just profiled myself as a ‘trash woman’ this morning on this hot day in August. My husband had a five-way by-pass eight years ago and so he’s been trying to build his heart strength. We left the house at 82 degrees, returning at 86 hot-humid degrees after a three-mile walk.
I had fallen behind my husband as the trash recovery slowed me down. At the half-mile mark, a large garbage truck stopped on this two-lane country asphalt road and ask me if I had any trash for him. He saw my white trash bag and was willing to take it from me. We had just begun our walk and my bag was still very light to carry. I politely told him, “No” as a car whizzed between us and I had to ask him twice what he said.
After picking up the smallest of papers to the size of a larger rectangle board, I finally made it to the end of that mile and dropped the white bag at the stop sign for my husband to pick up later. The humidity was high and it was hard to breath with no air circulating. My husband had turned back early because of being difficult to breath and now I was alone to make it to that stop sign where I could finally turn back toward home.
I’ve walked this same country road picking up trash since 2010. My multi-task personality likes to do more than just walk/jog. It is also a good time to process my thoughts and pray.
I first started this ‘neighborhood trash watch’ in 2010 when we moved to the country. I posted a white writing board for all to see at the Stop Sign. I told them how many bags of garbage I had picked up out of the ditches on that one-mile stretch of road. I was asking them NOT to litter. I believe it was over 40 large bags of trash that came from those ditches that first year. Now it is about one or two bags per week.
After cleaning up both sides of the road (two ditches) one-mile long…I took on the next challenge…I turned north and began to work on that two-mile stretch. Two miles north and two miles back and with our lane that gave me a five-mile walk/run route instead of the three-mile route.
How could I stand looking at these north trashed ditches after cleaning up the south one-mile stretch? Would it be the same type of trash? Would I meet more neighbors on this route? There were more shade trees on this route and so it has become the favored route except for dogs…free running..yelping..chasing dogs. A owner actually watched his dog almost attack me and I yelled at him to call off his dog. Only then did he call him back. I do find myself praying for some of these dogs to just ‘go away.’ It’s up to God how He works that out.
Many of these neighbors are thankful and now help keep their own ditches clean so my work is much lighter on that section. People want to know their neighbors. The Bible says that it is better to know your neighbor in time of need than a relative afar off.
What have I learned about trash? The trash in these particular ditches tell about those who live somewhere in this community. When I ‘trash walked’ the old Lincoln Highway in Iowa, I picked up trash for three miles and had one white bag. What did the first-mile of pavement poured in America have in common with my current location at the Santa Fe Trail in Missouri? The famous ‘Marlboro Man.’ Yes, the Marlboro man cigarettes are still the favorite package to throw out the window.
In Iowa our youngest son was eight years old when I walked that road picking up every cigarette package. I even collected them for a man named Merle who would turn them in for a prize. Now, this son is thirty-eight years old August 22. Thus, this report shows that still after THIRTY years, Marlboro is still the favored cigarette package by the ‘litter bug.’
Should we contact the Marlboro company and ask them to add another warning — “Do Not Litter” ? Hmm…just saying!
Now, what else have I learned about ‘litter bugs’? When I first became the ‘ditch friend’ (not the ditch witch) lol, I saw that it felt the most pain as a vehicle turns a corner. As a car slows down, people must feel better able to throw trash out their window because it doesn’t fly back in on them. Sort of like spitting on yourself, I would think!
Another profile ‘liter bugs’ have is that they are seasonal. There is more trash on the roads when the weather is nice when the car windows are down. Yes, there is less trash in the winter and less during the hot summer when those that have a/c have their windows closed.
What kind of litter is the most popular? Food bags, cup holders and cups…all of what Burger King, Quick Trip, and McDonalds put in your bag…but no toys…the kids must keep them.
Loads of brown beer bottles, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and tiny liquor bottles. These tiny bottles must go in the pop containers so no one can tell you are drinking alcohol while driving.
FOOD * BAGS * BOTTLES * Hub Caps * Boards * Styrofoam * Hub caps * JUNK * Sinks *
The reason I’m ‘profiling’ is because something strange has been happening since August 1. When I noticed this, I was wondering if someone had gone for a walk….collected some of the road trash in a small shopping bag and left it for me to discard in my larger bag. The first time I saw this bag it was nicely tied and laying up against a fence.
But, after my walk today, I decided that I did not have a helper. There was something else going on in a particular ‘litter bugs’ life. This person did NOT want to litter so they neatly prepared their ‘intentional litter’ and politely dropped it up out of the ditch. This second bag was identical to the other bag a week ago. Stuffed full of beer cans and tied tightly in it’s white shopping bag. And, then the 8-pack beer carton was flown out their window to lie close by for me to pick up.
In profiling this person’s behavior I have determined that they did NOT want to be ‘caught’ with these empty beer cans or their packaging in their vehicle or dispose of them in their own garbage.
Litter Profile: Ditches hold the ‘secrets’ of eating and drinking.
As you walk back and see the litter that you missed…you begin to think about who throws this stuff out knowing that there are fines for such activity.
My life has changed today somewhat because I now realize that all litter is not equal. I found myself wondering about the age of these people that do this and whether a male is more apt to litter or a female. Do kids do this because they see their parents do it? Are single people less responsible or are married people more responsible at helping keep America clean? Are migrant workers, students, husbands, wives, alcoholics, construction workers more or less responsible for all of this trash that I pick up week after week for nine years now? At one time I quit…and then I decided that no one else was doing it…and it just had to be done!
Profiling Trash –
Did most of this trash had a ‘hidden’ agenda? Did the Burger King and McDonald bags belong to kids or adults? Is it the male that fills the vehicle with gas and then grabs and Big Gulp on the way home from work? Do people not want their family to know that they just couldn’t wait for dinner and they eat and throw away the evidence? Why was there so many ‘food’ bags in these ditches?
The cigarette butts that I pick up are not filtered. The Marlboro Man is riding his horse on my trail again after I found him on The Old Lincoln Highway in Iowa thirty years ago. Now, he’s rides The Santa Fe Trail.
Profile: ‘Intentional’ Littering.
The secrets of our lives can be told by what our ditches hold. We throw out the window what we don’t want others to see at home.
Someone’s Got To Do It – Weed scratches, poison ivy, soggy shoes and dead animals that stink.
I’ve been stepping into the ‘unknown’ with snakes and weeds for thirty years. I’ve tried to help clean up our highways and sidewalks. People wave and smile and some even stop and stay ‘thank you’. Today, I was the ‘trash lady’. Tomorrow, I pray I make it up and down those hills in this heat and know I’ve made our ‘neighborhood’ better.
Needed Equipment – Cell phone – mace – White shirt, tall socks – gloves – Big Black Trash Bag – White Kitchen Trash Bag – Good Attitude
When you can’t stand to drag your black trash bag any longer because the sticks in the ditch are tearing holes in it and it won’t sling over your shoulder any more, leave it in the ditch to pick up later. Now, it’s the little white bag that might make it to the end. Your back is sore and your legs are stiff at the beginning of the season, but you’ve stretched before hand as if entering a race. You know your goal is to make it to the one-mile marker so you get to leave your bag at the stop sign so you can safely pick it up in a few days. And, there is the possibility that one of these neighbors on the road will have their trash bin out so you can drop your bag in it. (After all, it is their neighborhood, too.)
You’re now free to head back and run down those hills that you just climbed carrying your load of trash. But, first you must remember to find your drink bottle that your left on the side of the road. It was no longer possible to carry your water bottle as it is a pain to keep sitting it down..pick up the trash, open your bag to deposit the trash and now pick up your water bottle once again. It’s just better to leave it sit on the side of the road in hopes a car doesn’t smash it until you retrieve it on your return from dropping your Big Black Trash Bag on your one-way walk. Finally, on the way back you are now free to jog/walk as you want…no more bending over for trash.
When two cars are going to meet exactly where you’re bending down, you may just have to jump further into the ditch to avoid them from coming to a complete stop to miss each other because of you…the ‘trash master’.
NO, you can’t wear a headset to make the time go quicker. You must stay alert to hear the car that is coming up over the hill behind you and the car coming over the hill before you. They come fast so it is you that MUST be on the alert….and wear white so they see you! You raise your hand up for the cars coming so they know you know they are there.
One last story to close out ‘profiling’ trash and to see if you can step up to the task of keeping America beautiful.
You must watch to see if a vehicle slows down and seems to want to return. You must predetermine your response before it happens. You will wanted to have already calculated your get-away plan should someone decide to nab you. Are you willing to run into a bean field or how fast could you run to get to the closest neighbor’s house where someone will let you in. This is true for any outside walking or running sport. I had a distant niece who was threatened and she found shelter under a pile of leaves she stalked high on top of her.
Close Encounter: Be in left lane for cars turning into the right lane.
I was in the right lane finishing that one mile and there was the stop sign that I would deposit my bag. It was a T intersection with no stopping and a gentle turn. It was not perpendicular to the road. A car was coming so quickly making this gentle turn coming at a high speed. He almost caught my body that was already in the grass part of the ditch. He flew by me and I gasp for air as he missed me. It was a few months later when I was ‘trash woman’ again that a man actually stopped his car and apologized for nearly hitting me. He apologized for scaring me as he said my face had gone white.
Are there good people in our world? Yes! Are there accidents that scare people into being a ‘hit and run’ driver? Yes! May we all work together to NOT be drunk on the road..hiding our ‘secrets’ in our ditches. May we stay sober in our driving and in our walking so we don’t become a ‘deer’ in the headlights.
Yes, being a ‘trash’ person has it’s dangers but then so does life. If we don’t do it….who will? The people in ‘orange’? I like the show, “Somebody’s Got To Do It!”
This website is always so serious and I wanted to let you know this author does have a sense of humor and does think of other things besides TRUTH. And, yet…here I am….wondering why people throw out garbage and they throw out God….the very one that gave them the money to buy what they throw for others to pick up.
If you ever feel like trash…recycle yourself…go for a walk….make yourselves valuable to our world…picking up trash helps you to know you’re loved by Him and you’re not a piece of trash. Our Creator God is there to pick you up.
Mary C Crowley, deceased President of Home Interiors and Gifts, Inc. Dallas, Texas always said, “God Don’t Make Junk. Be Somebody.”
I don’t profile people…I love red, yellow, black, and white people.
I do profile junk…and pick up junk…especially those red, yellow, orange, black and white bags from QT and The Marlboro Man!
(I’ve never smoked, nor drank…so that junk is extra disgusting…but God’s grace is good!)