The other day, on my way to work, I was crossing under the BQE heading up to the Graham Avenue L stop to catch the subway. I had just passed under the highway and was crossing the street directly next to the off-ramp when a vanload of men pulled up to the stoplight. I thought nothing of them at first.
In the time it took me to walk five more steps, I heard the van door open and what sounded like something plastic being kicked out onto the street. I turned around to see what the sound was and that’s when I saw the driver dumping his (and every other passenger’s) trash onto the street below, onto MY neighborhood’s street below.
Before I could even think, my head filled with raw amazement, sadness, and then anger. I stood there, staring at them in horror. I can’t be sure of how I looked, but I’m pretty sure my mouth was open. The driver made eye contact with me as he pushed a few more plastic containers onto the street. Then, I got pissed.
You’re a jackass. You’re a total shithead.
I said to them directly. I picked up my phone to make a call. Quickly, I memorized their license plate. I wasn’t sure WHO to call or WHAT to say for that matter, but I had to call someone. So I called Toby.
About 7 years ago, my mother was driving me (and all of my stuff) back down to Washington, D.C. where I would begin a new career. We were on 322 at the time heading towards Harrisburg where we’d hit 15 South and drive into Maryland. Along that part of 322, one drives along some of the most beautiful mountain roads that making up Pennsylvania. Sometimes, there are streams out both sides of the car. It’s absolutely beautiful up there. That road alone can make trips to and from State College much more enjoyable than most road trips. There were nights and days I would pull over along the Susquehanna River and just stand there in awe of her. And the stretch of land between Harrisburg and Lewistown was given the name “Firefly Snowglobe” as Toby Joe and I rediscovered lightning bugs after our city dwelling for so many years.
My mother and I were talking non-stop, probably laughing about something one of us did when we were kids. Suddenly, the passenger in the van in front of us rolled down his or her window and dropped a slew of white paper onto the street below. It hit the air like dirty snow. It broke my heart a little bit.
Well, he or she couldn’t get away with this. So we wrote down the license plate number and stopped to make a few phone calls. Surely, there was someone to cal. Surely, there was something we could do. And there was. We phoned a local Litterbug Control number and turned them in. We gave the make and color of the car as well as the license plate number. The Litter Control agency would take are of the rest. I felt a little better. Hopefully, it wouldn’t piss them off making them litter more. Hopefully, they would understand how sad it was. I will never forget that day. Ever.
Toby, can you write down a number for me?
Toby was still at home getting ready for work. He arrives an hour later than I do most days.
Sure, let me grab a pen.
It’s 11603-JA. Email it to me.
As I’m saying the numbers to him, I notice the van out of the corner of my eye. They were following me, slowly.
HEY! HEY!! HEY YOU! C’mere you!
It was at that moment I realized how dumb I had been. What if they had a gun? People were shot for less an offense. After all, I called them all shitheads. I began to walk faster. I had hung up with Toby and crossed the street towards the bus stop. And that’s when they turned onto a side street. Perhaps, it was too early to fight with a girl.
Last night, Toby lightly scolded me on acting this way. And I meant it when I told him that I didn’t even THINK about my reaction, it really did just happen. Normally, I don’t act this way, I can assure you. But something hit a nerve and the SANE, SAFE, SOUND I apparently couldn’t stop the not so sane ME from verbally attacking THEM for their sloppiness. And even after I somewhat lost myself, all I could think was shame on them. I lay shame on them for acting that way. Shame on them. And shame on me for my behavior. I lay shame on me for my outburst. Shame on me for not knowing what to do with their license plate number.