Yesterday, I was driving to work and ended up behind a black Pontiac Grand Prix driven by a male driver wearing short-cut dark hair. I’ll call him Goofus. Goofus is also apparently a smoker, for as we were stopped at a light, he flicked a cigarette butt out onto the road.
I thought for a moment about the fact that this is a disgusting habit, squared. First, there is the smoking part, which if Goofus wishes to partake in well away from me and people I care about, he is welcome to the increased health risks he takes… so long as he keeps his health insurance paid up to cover his chemotherapy later. Second, there is the added habit our Goofus has acquired, that of littering. I can’t say that I noticed whether Goofus bothered to snub out his cigarette before casually flicking the end out the window, but from observation of many another Goofus driving at night, I’d say that the odds are not good that he does. A smoldering butt flicked into the middle of a multilane roadway isn’t a likely combustion source for a fire, but one flicked into a shoulder or median would be, and I have the feeling that the casual disposal routine isn’t lighting up many neurons in Goofus’s brain; there might not be all that many to spare.
Then I got to thinking about the larger population of Goofuses, their consumption habits, and the lingering, non-biodegradeable nature of many cigarette filters I’ve seen as litter, hanging on for weeks, months, or perhaps even years after the momentary nicotine high was induced in the victim. Landfills aren’t attractive and have their own problems, but I think all around those cigarette butts are much better safely snubbed out in ash trays in vehicles and then delivered into a waste receptacle rather than randomly dropped smoldering onto or off of our public roadways. Hey, Goofus, want to project a somewhat less nasty image of the smoking public? Take responsibility for all the disgusting and dangerous (taking initial flammability and later indigestible-to-wildlife properties) leftovers from it, too. The image I’m left with is akin to the child long beyond normal potty-training age in which the lessons just haven’t taken.