People are talking about how divided this country is, and I see it every day. Not just in a sense of politics – and you know this column was never meant to make any political statements. I find that there is one part of the population who drops off and another who picks up.
Only in October, I came across an invitation by the City of Lakewood to join an event – it was all about cleaning up specific town areas. I always hear how clean everybody finds my native country, Germany. And in a way it’s true. It’s not necessarily because a lot of Germans didn’t drop their garbage wherever they feel like it. It’s because we have clean-up crews daily patrolling parks and pedestrian zones and whatnot to pick up the debris other people dropped mindlessly. Paid clean-up crews. As in: It’s their job, if not their vocation. This is why I don’t remember any volunteers ever cleaning up areas in droves, and certainly not by invite to an “event” either. Because, let’s admit it, it’s not fun to pick up what other people leave behind in their laziness.
Another typical concept over here is the “Adopt a Street” one. You actually pick up the responsibility for an entire street as to picking up litter other people dropped or flung out of their car windows. I mean, really?! You cannot wait until you are parked somewhere to place your garbage into a bin, but you think it proper to toss bottles, garbage bags, and your ashtray contents into the street? Why are some people dropping their trash that they wouldn’t drop onto the floors of their private home onto the grounds of our communities?! No, it’s not a hen-and-egg problem. Clearly, the drop-off comes before the pick-up.
The phenomenon continues to supermarkets. How often do you find shopping carts dropped off in what seems to be the last available parking slot? I mean, if ever there is laziness, this is it! Because most parking lots have an area where you can drop off your grocery cart – mostly just a few ten yards away from where you have parked your car. I will never forget that well-dressed “lady” coming out of the University Place Safeway’s last year around Christmas. It had started to snow. And I’m sure that lady didn’t want her outfit to be messed up by the wetness. There was a cart drop-off only about ten yards away from where she had unloaded her groceries into her car. But what did she do? She worked on heaving the front wheels of the grocery cart into a flower bed five yards away in the other direction. Which took her probably as much time and as much effort as if she had dropped it off properly. She obviously never thought of the poor sales associate who wouldn’t just have to retrieve all the carts in the drop-off in the cold wetness, but also have to retrieve the cart from the flower bed. How very kindhearted, mindful, and lady-like!
My mother country has long dealt with the phenomenon of grocery carts dropped off anywhere because people are plain too lazy to walk a few more steps. They have invented the deposit cart: You put a coin into a slot in the handle to retrieve a cart – you get it back when you place the cart where the drop-off is by connecting your cart with those already parked. No carts standing around randomly in parking lots, for sure.
I could go on and on about the willfulness of some people. I still wonder about the story behind the wedding cake that friends of mine once found after they had adopted a street and were on their pick-up tour. I won’t ever understand why people drop trash anywhere. It’s absolutely disrespectful not just against the picker-uppers, but against Nature as well. And I think the only places where pick-ups and drop-offs are agreeable is at airports and food-drives.