This morning I took my daughter to the park. It was early, so we were the only ones there, and it was going to be a short trip. Last night’s rains had left their mark on the playground equipment, with tiny puddles on the swings and droplets on the monkey bars, and I wasn’t in the mood to haul a wet and muddy kid home.
What I hauled home instead of a soiled kid was a soiled mood. When we arrived, the park wasn’t ruined by the rain, but by other people. It was littered with trash. Empty fast food wrappers, smashed Arizona Iced Tea cans, and Dunkin’ Donuts cups were all over the ground and the play structure, and since the previous day had been bright and sunny, a perfect day for the park, I can only assume all of this garbage was from yesterday.
My question is this: WTF? This isn’t the sixties. Littering isn’t okay anymore. Everyone knows this, yet the trash left at our park this morning was the work of multiple individuals. Based on the beverage containers alone, at least eight people said, “I’ll just leave this right here on the ground/bench/fence for all of the little kids to find tomorrow.” And one person just tossed their empty pack of cigarettes on the ground. Is there anything more disgusting? Yes, it would have been more disgusting if they were menthol. Oh, wait. They were.
My first instinct was to blame the high schoolers. I know that during daylight hours, parks are crawling with younger kids, and by night they are claimed by teenagers. The park belongs to everyone, so I have no problem with teens hanging out and doing whatever it is they don’t want their parents seeing or hearing. Honestly, I don’t care. What I do care about is disrespecting our shared space. At the risk of sounding like the mom I am: PICK UP YOUR SHIT. This is in your best interest as well as mine. The more debris you leave laying around from your after hours activities, the more likely the city will keep a closer eye on evening park activity. Don’t be an asshole, and use your head.
I’m not one of those stupid adults who blame kids for everything. Poorly behaving adults are the ones who do the most damage in this world, and we are all so quick to judge teenagers. Sure they have terrible impulse control and hardly any life experience, but that is no match for adults who are skilled at justifying any selfish action, and think nothing of hurting other people to get what they want. Even well-intentioned parents will stomp on someone else to ensure their kid gets ahead.
The sheer number of Starbucks cups left at the park suggest that there are plenty of adults to blame for the trash situation at the park. Combine that with the seven juice box straw wrappers, four kid-themed Band-aids, and two Wendy’s kids meals bags, and I feel comfortable placing some of the blame on parents. To those people I ask again: WTF? Are you drunk, or just selfish? What example are you setting for your children? A lost Band-aid is one thing – those bad boys fall off and are hard to track down, but the fast food bags and coffee cups? Who do you think is going to pick that shit up, you lazy sonsabitches?
I’ll tell you who. My three-year-old and I picked up the trash. We walked around the park, using all of the time she had to play, picking up garbage. I would have liked to be using gloves, but since I didn’t anticipate the need to be righting the wrongs of jagoff park ruiners, I had no gloves and we used baby wipes. I didn’t want my sweet girl to be touching that nasty trash, and she sincerely wanted to help. She didn’t like the park looking “all yucky,” and neither did I.
We collected two grocery bags full of trash, and we didn’t even attempt to pick up the garbage littering the parking lot. I am ashamed of the people who left the park in this situation, and I am proud of my preschooler who cleaned up after them. She got ice cream for lunch. The douchebag litterers? They get a time-out. And a punch in the throat.