"Did you really throw that chicken bone on the ground?" A friend was tempted to pose this question to a man who had just polished off a fried chicken wing as he entered a train station on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She likes her neighborhood and she likes chicken but still doesn't understand how someone can throw a bone or anything on the ground. Who can?
On a recent trip to Washington D.C., we saw someone throw a small bag of garbage out their car's window like nothing. They did it as if there had been a sign instructing them to throw out their garbage for the next five miles.
We suspect if we followed these litterbugs home we would not be surprised at the mess we would see in their homes. Or maybe not. Maybe they're the type of people who when they litter in a public space, they believe they are creating or sustaining jobs! Yvette's neighbor was in the elevator when another neighbor threw her apple core on the floor. The neighbor told her to pick it up (hard to do that nicely) and she told him, "No. There are people paid to do that." She must've been having a bad apple day because when she saw her neighbor again, she apologized for her poor behavior.
Maybe litterbugs are created when parents of small children don't pick up after them in public. The cracker the child has been gnawing on becomes a big bore and he throws it down. The parent looks at him and smiles. The kid thinks he's just done something charming. Not too long ago, we saw a family, two adults and two young children, in a restaurant. At a certain point each child decided to share their food with the floor. At the end of the meal, the parents paid the bill, bundled up the children and left a huge mess for someone else to clean up. They had made no attempt to clean up and didn't look back. Not once did they point out to the children that they shouldn't throw food on the floor.
In restaurants, when something falls on the floor, you are not obliged to pick it up. If it's a utensil, you can gently move it with your foot out of the way so no one will slip on it. We're not talking about deliberate or excessive littering in this case.
There seems to be a fascination with throwing trash on train tracks. Candy wrappers seem to be popular. Maybe people think because they're tiny pieces of paper they don't matter as much and won't ever cause a fire on the tracks. Or maybe they're on a sugar high and aren't thinking clearly. Others brush up on their basketball game using trash bins on subway platforms as hoops. When they miss, they rarely pick up the 'ball'.
Nowhere is there more trash found everywhere except in trash receptacles than on the floors and counters in ladies' restrooms. Many women cover the toilet seat so that they can sit more comfortably and avoid the cooties. That's fine. But leaving the toilet paper to fly all over the place and not flush it down is vile. Paper towels don't seem to make it the bins either. And the worst collection of garbage in the ladies room? Near the door. No one wants to touch the doorknob. So the towel or tissue that's used to open the door and shield the hand from killer deadly germs ends up on the floor if no basket has been provided nearby. What a mess!
We don't suggest that you tell strangers to pick up after themselves. If their garbage bothers you so much and if it's manageable, like a piece of paper, you can pick it up with as little fanfare as possible. If you can get away with it, you can throw them a look - try not to scowl. They'll probably be embarrassed and either pick up the offending trash or totally ignore you. If they do, let it go and be thankful that you don't have a litterbug bone in your body.