Monday, August 31, 2009

Trashed in Columbia Heights

Clean NeighborsThat's what happens to my street, about every day. It gets trashed. I don't mean like a bunch of drunk frat boys. And it's not as bad as, say, Bourbon Street after Mardi Gras. But people throw crap on the sidewalk all the time.

I've started picking up trash sometimes when I walk N's dog, at least every other day and sometimes every day. I didn't start this because I'm trying to be some neighborhood do-gooder martyr or something. It's because I wanted the dog the be able to piss in the tree boxes without having to worry about broken glass. So it began with picking glass out of the treeboxes. But it always starts small, doesn't it?

Now, this dog, while cute as hell, is incredibly badly behaved. He has a paper-product fetish. If you leave a napkin where he can get it, he will eat it. If he can get his mouth around a roll of toilet paper, you think it's Halloween and some drunk kids toilet papered your house. He will clean out the bathroom trash can in seconds. And don't even think about leaving actual food where he can get it. David Copperfield couldn't make a pizza disappear faster. It's pretty unbelievable, actually.

So I soon learned that just picking up the glass wasn't going to be enough. I had to keep the sidewalks clear of paper products, too. Any disgusting napkin or q-tip or McDonald's wrapper was a delicious treat for this demented dog. Rather than spend half of the time on the walk avoiding bits of trash here and there, I just started picking them up. It made life a lot easier.

I must admit, it has gone way beyond it's original purpose. I've started to actually look forward to picking up the trash on the morning walks. I get excited when I find a broken bottle I can clean up. I've maybe even been a little disappointed when there's no trash some days. Yeah, it's pretty sad. I probably should get a hobby, like shrub-sculpting.

But the trash, the glorious trash! Sometimes there's a lot of stuff, especially Sunday mornings. But lately, there have been days when I've gotten next to nothing. I feel like the rate of trash production on the block and a half I "maintain" has gone down since I started picking stuff up. My theory is people may feel a little bad, sometimes, about littering on an otherwise clean block. Not everyone of course. But lately, I've had to walk a little farther to fill up my Giant bag with trash in the morning. It used to be that just one turn on to Spring Road would guarantee me a half-dozen malt liquor cans or bottles and at least one mess of someone's lunch from Wendy's the day before. Now, it's only every few days that I even find an unbroken bottle.

I've also started to notice a lot of patterns in where and when the trash is produced.

1) The majority of the trash appears at roughly the same spots, and generally spreads from there. Bad neighbors. Bad.

2) Someone must be parking their car between 10th and 11th on Spring Road, eating their Wendy's, and chucking their trash on the sidewalk about every single day. Lame. On the other hand, they will probably suffer a heart attack within the next few years, so it's a self-solving problem.

3) People are a lot more likely to deposit trash in overgrown treeboxes. No surprise there.

Sullivan. Don't let his docile appearance deceive you. He is a bad dog.
4) People will leave trash on their steps or front yards for weeks and just not care. Generally, I only pick up crap in the sidewalk itself and the treeboxes, since the street sweeper will get the rest, and people's steps are their steps. But when I've seen the same rotting paper bag with a couple empty beer cans in it sitting on someone's step for a week, I might have to take it.

5) I am thinking about starting a new feature: "piece of trash of the day."

6) I'm just kidding. Sort of.

The point of this post is really just anthropological. I'm not on a mission to create the citizen's trash picking corps. Though it has occurred to me that if even one in ten dog owners picked up a few pieces of trash whenever they walked their dogs, the city would probably be spotless. Something to think about.


Titania said...

Sometimes, I really worry about you Jamie...

lacochran said...

Thank you. Seriously. You're improving the world, one piece of trash at a time. Everybody sees the problem. You do something about it. I applaud you!

And there's no way that dog could be bad. Such a woodgieoodgielookhowcuteheis [degenerates into unintelligible cute noises]

Anonymous said...

Why bitch about trash but not a sign nailed to a tree? Trash can easily be cleaned up. A tree that size might take 30 or more years to grow.
Downtown Rez

Jamie said...

You might have noticed I bitch about lots of different things. This post was about trash, not about signs nailed to trees.

For what it's worth, I am against signs nailed to trees for the reasons you state. That particular sign looks like it's been there for at least 10 years. Luckily, the tree seems fine.