The girls and I were at the grocery today, standing in line with our several food items and our great big economy pack of double-roll toilet paper, because? When it comes to family harmony, not to mention gracious living, I think I'd rather be without milk, butter, bread, eggs and beer (life's staples) than without toilet paper.
So there's this young mother standing in front of us with her baby in her cart, and I was thinking how cute the baby was, when the mother took this long, loud slurping drink out of some nasty disposable cup, crushed it just enough to dent it in, and stuffed it down the magazine rack right in front of -- if you can believe it, and if you're easily shocked, you'd better sit down -- Martha Stewart Living.
And this was at the nice grocery store, not the one across town where all the crystal meth manufacturers in our fair city send their friends to queue up at the pharmacy to buy decongestants. The nice grocery!
It is true that I walk around in a permanent state of curmudgeonly disgruntlement over litter. I try not to, I really do. But it is SO HARD to love other people with the love of Christ when they do the most shiftless, lazy, selfish things. I can't stand it. I really can't. I watched that television commercial when I was a little kid, the one with the Indian standing there by a riverbank looking at all the garbage cluttering up what had previously been a proud and pristine waterway with that single tear sliding slowly down his carved-from-granite cheekbone, and I TOOK IT TO HEART, PEOPLE!
Cigarette butts on the sidewalk make me nuts. A McDonald's bag thrown casually out the window of a moving car makes me want to commit a small act of violence against the perpetrator. Nothing permanent, you understand; just a solid smacking about the head while delivering a lecture on the selfishness of throwing YOUR dumb trash on EVERYONE ELSE'S nature. People who walk out of restaurants picking their teeth are already on my bad side, because picking one's teeth is an activity that should be confined to the privacy of one's bathroom, in the first place, and in the second place, the people who do that tend to drop those toothpicks that have been in their germy mouths on the ground.
I've been such a prissy nagapotomus to this credo that when a holy card depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe blew off our dashboard and out into the wide world during a windy rainstorm the other day, I thought I was going to have to take Meelyn and Aisling in for therapy. Never mind that it blew into the parking lot of the public library, which looks like a thousand kindergarteners go there to eat a picnic lunch every day without ever picking up their trash, inviting an Army battalion and a circus to join them: WE HAD LITTERED, and that's all there was to it.
Maybe I've been a touch dogmatic.
I stood there, allowing my eyes to burn a hole into that young woman's shoulder blades, but if her flesh began to scorch, she gave no sign. Then I looked at that cup with its two inches of watered down Coke in the bottom and its straw stained with some sort of pinkish lip balm -- gross -- crumpled up in front of Martha's pretty April issue and I just wanted to take it and pour the rest of it right over her head and say through my gritted teeth in a tone of barely contained menace, "There are FOUR DIFFERENT TRASH RECEPTACLES at the FRONT OF THIS STORE. FIND ONE and USE IT, you-...you-...LITTERBUG!"
I had to change lines. I pushed my cart with dogged determination to the other end of the check-out lane section with Meelyn and Aisling following behind me, peeping like baby ducks: "Who? What? Why? Where?"
"Oh, nothing," I sighed. "I just thought this one....seemed cleaner."
My husband says it's a good thing I no longer have to work with the public, which is so true. I find the public much easier to love when I don't have to be around them and their cigarette butts, toothpicks, empty drink cups and McDonald's bags thrown around like rice at a wedding. Yecchhhhhhhh....
Here's the 1970s commercial featuring that weeping Indian, brought to you courtesy of YouTube: Indian reacting to pollution
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