...a potent blend of Miss Manners and Batman

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Scourge of the Earth: Litter Bugs

When I was a child, I was indoctrinated into the cult of Litter Bug Loathers. Some kids learn about the perfection of football or the imperfection of their religion, but my parents found professional sports boring and mildly contemptible, and their views on religion were roughly the same. Littering, on the other hand, drew their full wrath. And now it draws the wrath of Voice of Society Man.

Normally when I see someone litter, VoS Man has to suppress the urge to shout at them or get violent. Instead, he hands them the paper they've tossed aside and says, "Excuse me, you dropped this." Fellow VoS-Men, a word of advice: The move must be performed exactly as mentioned. Simply telling people that they've dropped something does not work, as they tend to ignore you or worse. You must get in their face, disrupting their normal pattern of behavior. Remember, this is about re-educating the public at large.

When handed her own litter, a Bug tends to behave in a predictable fashion. The phases are similar to the stages mourning:

1) Denial. "That's not my paper." I point out that the she is holding a venti chocolate frappuccino, exactly as specified on the receipt that she dropped.
2) Anger: "What's it to you?" or "I didn't drop that on purpose, y' know." VoS Man merely stares, awaiting the next Stage:
3) Bargaining: "It must have slipped from my purse when I was putting away my wallet." VoS Man carefully raises the right eyebrow. Too low and the move goes unnoticed by the Bug; to high, and the move appears scornful. Just right, and the Bug is able to progress to the next Stages.
4) Depression: "Just think of the mess I've made of this beautiful city of ours. I'm a terrible person. My parents were too lax. Thank god I have a good therapist." This Stage usually happens internally, but the look on the Bug's face says it all.
5) Acceptance: "I'll never litter again. Who needs the tsuris?" Again, this is usually part of the internal monologue, but it's an important step in the process.

Of course, if a Bug drops something that Voice of Society Man doesn't care to pick up, it's a different story. In this case, he must rely on his powers of prestidigitation. If you ever see someone walking down Central Park Avenue with a "Litter Bug" sign taped the back of his jacket, you will know that VoS Man is nearby.

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About Me

My pesky alter ego who will set you right if you break one of the unwritten rules of getting along