It’s such a simple little action, clearly of little significance to the man who performs the deed as I watch him from the flat window. He’s obviously done it before, so I think it’s safe to say that it’s habitual by now. He doesn’t mark the occasion in any celebratory way, doesn’t draw any kind of attention to it. It’s a fluid, organic movement. It’s second nature. He takes a stick of chewing gum from his coat pocket with his right hand, unwraps it with both, shoves it in his mouth with his left, then drops the paper foil onto the road with his right. He doesn’t throw it or make any sort of big deal about it, just lets it free of his fingers as the hand returns to his side.
My first reaction is one of great anger. For the briefest of moments, I picture myself running down the many flights of stairs to the street and boxing a few of his teeth out. But I’m no good at brawling, nor have I any real desire to. But it’s a great fantasy. The thing is, no matter how hard you hit an arsehole, he’ll still be an arsehole when he wakes up – so what’s the point?
Maybe I should lift the window and shout down to him, let him know how outraged and repulsed I am by something he clearly considers to be so trivial? This may lead to an unwanted confrontation though, and for all I know he could be completely mental and good at violence. Plus, he would know where I lived and might fire bomb me. No, keep quiet, you’ve got to be careful in the city.
Then the rage soon mutates into a deep depression. I feel a shower of shade fall over me, I feel my face begin to frown and sag and suddenly my limbs feel heavy, like someone’s turned the gravity up too high. I’m not sure what offends me more – is it the ignorance or the arrogance? What is he thinking as he casts his little silver paper on the evening breeze? Is he even thinking at all? What makes him think he has the right to discard his detritus on my street, on my neighbours’ street, or maybe even on your street? Is it merely a case of bad manners or is he trying to show us he’s still a rebel in the midst of middle age, proving that society’s restrictive conventions of propriety and decorum could never hope to tame the carefree beast within his greying, balding body? Or does he just assume someone else will eventually pick it up for him? After all, that’s what the street sweepers get paid for, isn’t it? Maybe he thinks that disposing of unwanted waste in a public area is the inherent right of any tax-paying citizen – he’s paying their wages, isn’t he?
I truly can’t understand it, and there are very few things that can trigger instant sadness in me like litter can. To jettison waste with no regard to surroundings seems like an ultimate display of contempt for society to me; it’s the action of someone who has no regard for the human race at all. It’s a perfect physical manifestation of the callousness of the naked ape, and I rank it among the most abhorrent traits of our species. People who drop litter are under-evolved.
The guy’s gone now. I watched him as he stopped in the phone box, made a call, then walked further down the street. He didn’t drop anything else, but I can still see his chewing gum foil glistening under the streetlights, stuck to the road with rain.
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