You’ve been there, done this, right?
Driving along behind a local yahoo who pitches a cigarette butt out the car window. You beep at them. Up comes the magic fingah and the laugh, proudly affirming “Born To Run! The road is my ashtray — get over it, old man.”
Sometimes it’s a candy wrapper, an empty cigarette pack, a soda can or, heck, sometimes it’s the whole ashtray. But that’s mostly when the car is stopped or parked.
Still, there’s always the same response: This is America, man. It’s my right to dispose of my trash any way I want, proudly and openly. And always, the laugh.
In a sense they’re right: it is their right, because no one ever seems to react, fine them or take action.
The cops could care less; litter seems a joke to them. They’re fighting crime, they have bigger fish to try. And mostly, they do. So the butt tosser has the last laugh, repeatedly. The public seems too terrified to speak up to butt tossers, afraid of humiliation, ridicule or actual intimidation. Like driving in Glosta, these rules are not matters for the higher authorities to invest any time or political capital.
It’s just something we do in Fishtown. After all, we have the Clean Team patrolling the city to remediate this litter problem, right?
Well, yes, it’s right to say they are patrolling the city. But not necessarily doing much cleaning.
Have you noticed the Clean Team at work? They are the kids you see out in packs, in the light blue tee shirts, walking the littered streets of downtown. Mostly, however, that’s exactly what they are doing.
The Clean Team is a grant-driven cadre of kid cleaners who get paid to pick up litter. Started around 2000, Patty Amaral, Tony Corrao of Precision Roofing and Murray Matzner wrote the original grants and supervised and motivated their team of 12 kids five days a week, with plenty of help from Jeff Melanson.