I set out to make amends for my past cigarette littering. And since no sin can be atoned without an internet accounting these days, here goes. Disclaimer: as I worked, I found many other tiny objects along with the butts, so I decided to pick up – and count – anything that would go down the drain and hurt sea life. I’d say about 20 percent of my count was this butt-adjacent litter. Hey, it’s my atonement, my rules.
Next to Blick Art Materials, home to the great GM Jeff.
200 butts in 30 minutes
Included in that number are 4 straws, an armful of Styrofoam peanuts, assorted plastic bits, a lighter, a cigarette box and plastic wrapper.
200 butts collected in 30 minutes during a stop on a bike ride.
I rode through a really fancy neighborhood, spotting only one or two butts a block, but other trash was strewn about. Plastic water bottles, energy drinks, Starbucks cups and straws. I stopped at first, but soon realized if I stop every time I see litter I’ll be stopping 10-50 times a block. No matter how nice the neighborhood.
Then I hit a shabbier area, and found a sea of trash in front of an empty lot. I hit 200 in 1/2 hour, including bottle caps and piles of other small plastic trash. Lots of plastic cigarette holders; apparently they’re a one-use kind of thing. People were slightly less freaked out by me here, and even said hello when they walked by. Three people walked by with their dogs, but with no plastic baggies in sight. So much dog poop abounded, I’m pretty sure it was a neighborhood bag-free zone. One woman saw me and moved her dog as he was about to go, I’m pretty sure because I was there. I was about to stop at 170 but then hit a mother lode at the curb, an inch away from a trashcan. Thirty just sitting there in a pile, waiting for me.
On the ride home I spied garbage everywhere. It’s impossible to just ride blissfully anymore, I can’t see the trees for the trash. I was depressed by this for a while, then came around to the understanding – paraphrasing that well-known saying – that I have to accept the things I can’t change, and change the things I can. Finding the wisdom to know the difference is going to take some doing.
220 butts and other small plastic debris
At one point I felt like I was on an Easter egg hunt in Hell. Instead of finding pretty dyed eggs or foil-wrapped chocolates, I was collecting little toxic bonbons. But then I thought that every single fetid item represented a saved fish, or an albatross not choking on a plastic cap, and I felt a bit better. (I felt even more better after my hands underwent a mini Silkwood shower back home. If you’ve seen the movie you’ll get the reference. If you haven’t, go watch it already, it’s fantastic. And yes, I know ‘more better’ isn’t proper grammar, Dad.)
I didn’t want to sacrifice any of my tote bags to the cause, so I reused a bunch of plastic bags that had previously held raisins, cookies, tortillas, and the like. That only added to the crazy look, of course. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound of nutso.
This pick up was in front of a place called the Log Cabin, which is used for many 12-step meetings. When I got home I called the AA Central Office in downtown Los Angeles. The guy on the phone was very appreciative of my efforts, but then when I asked whether a request could be made that smoking meeting-goers could stop littering their cigarette butts, he responded with: “Good luck sweetheart.” So much for that idea.
I thought 220 in 20 minutes was an impressive number, until I saw this post on Danielle’s website. 20 minutes: 2026 butts.
Nice Danielle! (Show-off.)
I notice that the only people who say hi are valets. Maybe they are nicer people. Maybe they are used to weirdos. Maybe they like that I’m cleaning their areas.
I hit 220 and started to turn back at 25 minutes, then kept hitting nasty jackpots as I walked home. Final count for the day: 324.
I started to feel kind of ill, and didn’t know if it was my imagination, or maybe the disgust has entered my body.
I understand why people break this kind of clean-up up. It’s too repulsive doing it every day. If I had to keep it up past 2080, I’d burn out.
After feelng so icked out yesterday, I was going to skip today, but after yoga class I was so sweaty I figured it would be a waste of a good dirty outfit. So I took to the streets around the Hollywood YMCA, heading toward an area I knew would yield results, and I was rewarded, in unusual ways. In front of a homeless shelter a couple blocks over, I collected most of the butts of the day. I also encountered several friendly people who didn’t try to avoid me. One man said, “It takes a gold heart to pick up cigarette butts,” which made me feel like a million bucks. When I explained I was trying to make up for my past butt littering, he said, “Whoa, I’d have to clean them up forever,” and we both laughed. One shy gentleman walked by before saying hello to me, almost under his breath. After I hit 20 minutes, I headed back toward my car. As I passed by the shelter entrance, the security guy stationed there thanked me. Caught off guard, I quickly replied, “My pleasure!” and then wondered why the hell I would say that. But really, today it kind of was.
I double-gloved it this time. Two on one hand. Looks just as crazy, but feels like safety.
Seriously considered adopting a Bait Tank rather than finishing this. Throw money at the problem! But instead, more ICK.
293 left to go, hallelujah.
Oddly, this time I found dozens upon dozens – scores! – of field-stripped butts. Like squared-off puffs of pollen from a toxic tree.
DONE DONE DONE
I’ve gotten a smidge OCD. On a walk, I start to count all the butts and bits that I pass. Even when I’m not picking anything up – no glove, no love – I can’t stop. A walk around my block comes up with numbers that make me crazy. Would you try it? Walk around your block and see what you count. And if that number is zero, please let me know where you live. I want to visit, and get a little respite from all the damn counting.