Walking to the subway Tuesday night, I nearly lost it. I witnessed a young girl throw a full can of soda on the ground as though my world is her trash can. An empty can is bad enough, but she threw this completely full can down with force and caused a huge spray of liquid to splash out on the sidewalk, street and parked cars. I said, “What’s the matter with you, did you grow up in a shed?!?!”
But, wait! I did grow up in a shed and even I know not to litter. I wanted to have a show down with her. She walked forward and ignored my barrage of remarks and insults which include such barbs as “Oh, you’re so cool because you’re a trash thrower.” Obviously, she is better at hurling trash than I am at insults. But I did say she was trashy and made it clear I thought very poorly of her and her littering and was prepared to get into a physical confrontation if need be. I towered over her and had my thumb poised to spray her cheap, J.Lo imitating, lazy diva ass with pepper spray all in defense of a concrete jungle that I know and love as home, AKA Queens, New York.
You can say all you want about the “Don’t Mess With Texas” litter campaign…call it braggadocio or arrogance…but you absolutely cannot say that it is ineffective. Started in 1985, it found a 72% decrease in roadside litter in five years. That’s astounding. It coupled hefty fines (up to $500 for the first offense and $2,000 plus 180 days in jail for repeat offenses) and an amazing media blitz which included original songs performed by the likes of Steve Ray Vaughn, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett to name a few. You can check out all the video and radio clips over the past 18 years here, including my favorite from Willie Nelson, who sings:
“Keep your trash off the road,
cause she’s a fine yellow rose,
Treat Texas like someone you love!”***
(Click here for the brief video with the full song.)
How ingenious! How remarkable this idea is of instilling respect and love for your surroundings and the place you call “home”. That’s a marketing blitz I will gladly buy into and do so proudly. (You really must check out the entire website and not just the music clips to appreciate how effective and powerful marketing and the media is. Read the comments below for more marketing geekiness.)
New York has just started a campaign with ads that read, “When it rains, you don’t go to the beach. Your trash does.” I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t scream at you to “Stop! Or else!” I expect more out of New York. Meanwhile, I can only do my part and not litter and on occasion make someone aware that they “dropped” something and smile sweetly. (The above near brawl was a rare fluke. I don’t think I’ll be picking too many fights with the ruffians that dwell in my hood.)
I believe, in this instance at least, that one person really doesn’t make a difference. I would need to enlist an army, demand Mayor Bloomberg start fining offenders, and make sure there are no excuses for littering by having more trash cans available for use. The problem, though, is actually garbage day. The wind blows the leftover trash all over the place and then really what’s the use? People even only slightly prone to littering will definitely use this excuse. I guess my yellow rose of Queens will always be a little wilted and that’s just a pity.
***Never mind that many treat people they love like shit on a regular basis. Spoil sport!