Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

I Don’t Mean to Dump on You. Just Near You.

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Hi, there. Do you mind if I toss my empty wrapper into your yard?

I wasn’t sure. See, it looks like a few other people have already done so, but I didn’t know whether they have some special arrangement with you, or what. I see that a lot, and I’m never certain as to some people’s behavior when it comes to disposal of refuse.

I figure all the wrappers, newspaper fragments, cigarette butts and half-eaten food items that I see all over the place must have been discarded with some forethought, because, you know, humans have this capacity to consider the consequences of their actions. I favor the economic model that sees people acting more or less in consonance with their interests – which, I know, does not account for all of human behavior, notably the popularity of certain television networks – but I’m looking for ways in which what appears to be profligate, indiscriminate scattering of garbage might be accounted for in terms of productive ends.

So I surmised they had some collaborative, mutually beneficial arrangement by which they might save time and energy by just chucking their trash into other people’s property, and in exchange they might offer some tangible benefit, such as payment, babysitting or housekeeping services, for example.

Now, it could be – and please indulge my speculative musings here – that some people knowingly dispose of their garbage every which way and rely on their tax dollars to fund municipally administered cleanup efforts; but this fails to reckon with the obvious benefits of having a continuously clean environment, not one that merely oscillates between filthy and passable (let us not get carried away with the assumption that cleanup successfully removes every morsel of crap; one illusion at a time, please). The long- and short-term benefits of taking one’s refuse all the way to the nearest appropriate receptacle far outweigh the negligible savings of time and energy involved in just dropping everything on the spot. So it could not be this calculus that drives the litterbug to act thus.

That’s why I posed this question to you, you see. If my assumption proves correct, I would further inquire as to the benefits you enjoy from the accumulation of assorted waste in your territory. I admit that my own territory might lack a bit in the maintenance department – I vacuum and wash my car scarcely more than once a year – but I wish to understand why one might countenance active use of one’s space as a dumpster, especially in light of the ill will such aesthetics can easily generate among the neighbors.

Unless, of course, you already have an agreement with those neighbors, who are willing to forgo a completely pristine street or neighborhood in exchange for, say, something you might offer them in return – free shortcuts through your yard; barbecues or block parties that you sponsor; decorative pairs of your old shoes, aesthetically adorning telephone wires throughout the area. It could be anything, really, which just piques my curiosity even more.

I suppose an alternative hypothesis could explain this phenomenon: the individuals putting their trash in your yard, or bicycle basket, or the bed of your pickup truck, have not actually received permission to dispense their detritus there, but behold the existing accumulation and conclude that you are an avid collector, and generously wish to contribute. This hypothesis has the advantage of explaining both what you might receive from these passers by and the benefit you offer them – the convenience of clearing the space these objects occupy without additional effort.

Give this arrangement enough time, though, and people might start driving over just to deposit their used whatever in your yard. I suggest you forestall this by warning them they can be cited for illegal dumping. After all, it’s only the concern we all share for one another that keeps our society functioning as well as it does.


Written by Thag

December 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

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