see more butts

September 6, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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The world is your ashtray.

The world is your ashtray.

I’m not in a sunny mood so this will be a good day to put up a few posts about items that have been bugging me!  Venting into cyberspace might be a lot better than telling family and friends about it [people who have problems of their own].

15 years or so ago tossing butts out car windows suddenly became not the same as littering.  Before that people used to actually use the ash trays in their cars.  I remember riding around with people when I was a kid who had overflowing ash trays.  For 15 years they’ve only been used to store change for parking meters, and they don’t even put them in new cars at all. 

I see butts flying out the windows of everything from police cars to electricians’ and painters’ trucks to minivans.  The butts hop around on the road in front of you on the highway, and at night they hit the pavement with a shower of sparks.  The smell of the smoke comes in the air vents of my car even if I’m 75 feet behind.  Riding around town on a bike, you can’t find a three foot long section of road or sidewalk in the nicest, most well-kept neighborhoods that’s butt-free.  There isn’t anyplace, from the tops of the mountains outisde town to the beaches and deep in the woods where you can get away from them!  At bus stops, intersections and all along busy arterials they collect by the thousands.  There must be 15,000 butts laying on the pavement for every man, woman and child in Anchorage.  Considering each one is a toxic trove of deadly chemicals and materials that can take a decade to biodegrade, it’s an environmental catastrope. 

Street sweeps periodically pass by and scoop them up, but a lot of them wash down storm drains and into local creeks.  Boat captains and passengers throw their butts into the ocean, rivers and lakes directly.


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  1. Sometimes I manage to be on foot or on bike at an intersection when the driver of a stopped car tosses his or her butt on the pavement. I itch — I mean, badly — to toss the still-lit butt back in the window, on the driver’s lap.

    But, we can’t reward bad manners with bad manners, can we? Whenever I think of doing that, I remember that (a) I could be running for office someday, and (b) I could be broken down by the side of the road someday with this person passing by. Those thoughts tame me. But what the hell else can you do?

    Incidentally, I don’t have the same sense that some switch happened about 15 years ago. Is this just your personal recollection (not that that invalidates your point), or do have any empirical data? Is it so just in Alaska, or just in Anchorage? It seems to me that people have always been tossing their cigarette butts out the windows — but maybe I just don’t remember my earlier life so well.

  2. It’s just my recollection. It may have transitioned more gradually than that. There were always people who tossed them out the window, but they were a small minority. And someone else riding in the car was likely to ask, what are you doing? Isn’t that littering and couldn’t you start a fire? Now everyone does it, without reservation and no one really challenges the practice. It’s a strange topic to bring up, it makes people really uncomfortable.
    One of my favorite stories came from when my brother volunteered at the Anchorage Pioneer Home [about 15 years ago]. He was riding around with one of the residents there in the guy’s car — a 1970s Ford Galaxie 500. Glancing into the back seat, noticed it was just springs and metal straps — no upholstery or stuffing. He had been cruising with all the windows rolled down, tossed a butt, it re-entered the back window and rolled down the crack in the seat, slowly smoldering so he didn’t notice at first what was happening….

  3. with apologies to mason williams.

    How ‘bout them butt tossers, ain’t they a load?
    Tossing they butts on the side of the road
    Deep in they hearts they know it ain’t right
    But they toss ‘em by day and again in the night

    They toss ‘em from cars, from bikes and from boats
    And I can’t make ‘em stop it by writing this note
    I wish they would use they ashtrays instead
    I know they don’t turn out to clean the creek bed

    And they won’t connect the results with they action
    So changing they ways never gets any traction
    What would it take to make ‘em stop flickin’ butts?
    Shame ‘em into it somehow, say they’s a putz?

    Some rash demonstration, a rich illustration
    Of toxins in water and crops ‘cross the nation
    A circle of life joined together with plastic
    We must break the cycle, it’s time to be drastic

    The butt tossers might never stop choking on smoke
    But could be convinced it’s really no joke
    And put they butts in they pockets until they can find
    An ashtray or trash can. [A piece of my mind!]

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