There was no way she could have seen me in my window, peeking through the blinds. She went about her business as if no one were watching, scooping out handfuls of trash from the interior of her car onto the street. Hamburger wrappers, assorted packaging, gobs of plastic grocery bags, all thrown with disregard. My initial shock and disbelief quickly dissolved into anger. I had seen plenty of anti-littering commercials. I knew what I was supposed to do—not litter—but where was the commercial that taught you how to deal with litterers? I imagined a whole parliament of owls in Peter Pan hats swooping down at her with talons extended. I let out an audible "hoot."
As I debated how I was going to address my nasty-gram, I saw her scatter an entire coffee cup full of cigarette butts to the four winds.Let's review the score. Points for harming the environment: 5. A few wrappers might make their way as far as the bay, but I don't really dig on seafood, and water sports are never spectator sports. Points for uglying up the neighborhood: 10. I read somewhere that it takes upwards of 1,000 years for grocery bags to decay. I was kind of hoping to sell my house before that. Points for making me feel guilty for not picking up her trash: 20. She's the reason that Native American cries in the commercial, and no one likes to see a grown man cry. Points for spying on the neighbor: 1. That's 35 for the visitors, 1 for the home team.
Enough was enough. Immediately I set to work on the H-bomb of neighborly retaliations—the angry letter. As I debated how I was going to address my nasty-gram (Is "To the Littering Neighbor" too harsh?), I saw her scatter an entire coffee cup full of cigarette butts to the four winds. I readdressed the letter using a word that could only be depicted in most media outlets with the symbols !, #, @, and %.
For 30 minutes I really let it out on paper. We must feel a sense of social-responsibility in order for society to function smoothly. Respect others and they will respect you. Does your soul have a particular television show it likes to watch while you're outside cleaning your car? I figured it was a rough draft and I'd clean it up later in the editing room.
Sweat poured from me as I scribbled vigorously, and I knew I was finally standing up for something worth standing up for. This was how the signers of the Declaration of Independence must have felt. After two hours, my letter was perfect. Historians look back on this document as the textbook example of angry neighbor letters. I folded the paper thrice, sealed it in wax, and the deed was done. Welcome to Shamesville, population: her.
I left the letter on her porch, leaning against her door, and then ran past the litter in great Groucho Marx strides doing my best to not look at it. Still, I could feel the litter calling out to me "Every day is Earth Day." I slammed my front door behind me and immediately started a compost pile. The next morning, after replacing all of my incandescents with CFLs, the guilt became too much. I snuck over with a broom and dustpan to sweep up the mess.
As I swept, I swore it felt like I was being watched. Looking over at my neighbor's house, I saw the blinds in her window jostle and I noticed that my masterpiece in disgrace was gone. "Good," I thought, "maybe she learned her lesson." Then I glimpsed the letter lying in my recycling bin, the wax seal still in place.
At least she recycled.