Ted Kalvitis - Far Muse

(The quarter-mile soap opera)

In tribute to last Thursday’s Earth Day

I’m trying to lose a little weight by observing a daily 2-mile, self-inflicted forced march. About a quarter mile of this trek is on a secondary road, the rest on U.S. 50.

Along the way, there is, of course, litter on the roadside. I find it easier to just pick up the trash along the secondary road rather than to complain about it. If I observe this routine regularly, keeping this stretch of road reasonably clean is not all that big a chore.

Interestingly, though, the trash can give us a valuable insight into the secret lives of people who discard trash along the roadside.

First, let me tell you about my plan to eliminate the litter problem.

I’m not overly fond of the effect that computers have had on our lives — there are things that we are simply better off not knowing about each other. No longer can we escape our mistakes simply by moving.

Likewise the great fortunes of the early 20th Century are unlikely to happen again in an age where a rising Rockefeller or Mellon, who will naturally make mistakes on the way up, can be brought down by a kid in a cubicle in New Jersey.

On the positive side, computers and computerized equipment may bring about the end of the golden age of littering as well.

Whenever an item is scanned at the register, enough information is stored so that if there is found to be something wrong with the product, the manufacturer can determine when and where the tainted item was sold.

Such an arrangement can be very valuable in the event of a recall as the manufacturer need only recall small batches rather than pulling their product from shelves nationwide.

At the same time, enough information is also recorded to lead law enforcement to a store surveillance video of the purchase and the purchaser. Purchases such as those at fast food restaurants are also recorded and can be traced. Videos of purchases made at the drive-through may even include a license plate number.

Of course, this would require cooperation between law enforcement, merchants and manufacturers and perhaps some modification to the systems. However, as states and municipalities realize the potential for revenue from fines, the idea is sure to catch on.

But I promised a look into the lives of litterers. The habits of these people can be discerned to a degree by the frequency and placement of the trash itself.

For example, empty beer containers on the west side of the road could indicate that they were discarded by the passenger in the vehicle on the homeward commute. However, when they appear before noon along with antacid packages, we begin to see a morning drinker whose insides are wearing out.

Other more personal trash is also discarded such as letters, notes and receipts, some bearing names, addresses and personal correspondence.

It may seem that I’m suggesting that these people are of a baser intelligence, indeed, in the letters and notes that I’ve read, it seems that only the profanity is spelled correctly, but let the reader draw his or her own conclusion.

When one studies roadside trash closely, the overall picture that roadside trash conveys reads like a soap opera update so I will present it as such.

Since these folks have purposely discarded their trash for us all to see, we will give them names related to litter, garbage, trash and the disposal thereof.

* * *


The sound of litter 

Packer is selling scrap metal but hauling it a considerable distance, leading to suspicion that some of the metal might be stolen. Patrasha finds her brother’s drug paraphenalia and confronts him with the evidence.

Meanwhile, Garba Jean finds out about Strewn’s affair with Offalia and their tryst at the fenced-in area around the dumpster behind McDonald’s.

Dross’s doctor gives her the shocking news that if she doesn’t stop smoking in the house, she will risk damaging the health of her 3 small children.

Scow keeps arriving at home in the evening with a freshly opened bottle of beer. Effluvia, noticing similar bottles on the roadside, asks Scow to show her the store receipt to see how many he’s really had.

Debree steals some checks from her former boyfriend and writes one to herself, forging his signature.

When the check is turned down at a local convenience store she abandons the venture.

Spilth gets a letter to call the bank regarding his trailer payment — Spilth still entertains hope that the lottery will bail him out at the last moment while Strewn, overcome by Offalia’s wiles, spends lavishly on her which puts him in danger of losing his home.

Squalor pulls a gun on Bumpf who decides to divorce her for his own safety.

* * *

I kid you not, folks. This is the way that trash along the roadside reads when we put all of the clues together. There’s more that I could relate, but doing so might compromise ongoing criminal investigations.

It would seem that the life of a litterer isn’t exactly peaches and cream — more like peach pits and diesel fuel.

Anyone so apathetic as to trash their own neighborhood and inconsiderate enough to trash that of others probably isn’t a candidate for starring in a Mary Poppins movie.

When the authorities adopt my litter control plan, roadside trash will become a thing of the past. Some of us might find ourselves missing the stories that litter holds but we can tune in to the soaps instead.

First published Nov. 30, 2011

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