All that Litters...not good!


I am inured to long commutes and inconveniences along the way. Inured means to accept something undesirable, or to become an advantage (well, that it gets you somewhere counts), says the dictionary.  I looked it up for those unfamiliar with the word but yes, I’ve known and used that word all my commuting life, popping up in my head every time something or someone annoyed me that I’m surprised a thought bubble didn’t grow out and flash furiously like a neon sign. 

I don’t know what it is with certain people – too pedestrian, too entitled to their personal space that they would wrestle yours from you, too “at home” that when they step out there is no such thing as public space, too ignorant or couldn’t care less. I have been commuting since grade school, taking the bus way early with my parents and brothers from Malabon to Quezon City, where my parents work and our school bus waits to take us – kilometers further to learn our ABCs, 123s, Fs and Ps, with a smattering of culture, home ec and playtime from 7 a.m. to 5p.m. We go home with my dad (school bus pick up are mornings only; mom goes home ahead to get dinner going), taking the EDSA route by bus again.  We children never questioned why we have to go to school so far from home.  I was on scholarship and my brothers have to go where I go, for convenience, since my parents work and we can’t afford nannies or separate school buses. 

At first it was fun to ride the bus like a grown up and we older kids gleefully watch out for the youngest -so we can tell mom later- sleeping on his feet, leaning on my dad for support.  Sometimes we all have to stand, no one would give up their seats; EDSA such a long ride for most and well, it is paid seating.  There is a dearth of gentlemen, too.

After a while, it was drudgery.  There are pervs trying to cop a feel; the jostling and being squeezed into a small space; super traffic;  long stops to fill up the bus; the headache inducing, burning tires smell of clutch driving; the jolting when drivers brake so often; the smell of someone’s vomit; somebody smoking ahead of you (non aircon bus) or rank with sweat or body odor and nicotine.  If you are sitting down and someone stands in the aisle beside you, bags or knapsack or butts are in your air space and face; gum and soda spill sticky floors and litter underfoot.  Irritates the heck out of me.

I am vocal about it too! I would accost the perv and slug him, small as I was (back then people are shamed; now they have the cheek to tell you to ride a cab).  I would glare at people for boorishness on the bus and on or off it, for littering or spitting.  I still do, because commuting now is as “fun” as ever. Added to above mentioned perks : commuters talking loudly on cell phones and to friends sitting two seats away for everyone to hear their life stories and various creative excuse for tardiness.  It is not eavesdropping – their voices carry and invade your privacy).

I even took a picture of a girl who threw a plastic cup a third full with drink (uncapped at that) right on the pavement where I was standing alongside her, waiting in line to ride a jeepney.  The cup fortunately landed on its bottom, no spills, but it was there on the street for all to see.  She had the nerve to smile at me, sheepish but unapologetic when I called her on it. Nobody else reacted.  In fact, an older woman behind her, carrying an empty plastic cup, was about to follow that girl’s prime example with that same look on her, except she saw me glaring at her as well and thought better of it.  I took the picture of the girl sitting across from me on the jeep, not in the act because unless you have CCTV cameras for eyes you can’t anticipate these things.  I have a vague notion of putting up her picture on a webpage somewhere, like one of those “wanted” galleries, to shame people from doing petty but ultimately unhealthy, bad things that could lead to bigger, badder stuff like clogged drains and flooding and the end of the world!  Ok, so I exaggerate.  But really, people seem to go around doing stuff without thought or care. 

You’d think people who ride the trains are working class, therefore educated and aware. Ergo: knows enough not to litter the escalators with discarded bus tickets and candy wrappers that gets wedged in the ridges and gears and moving parts that eventually stops working, then everyone  (litterbugs included) will have to take the stairs (great many steps!) or walk up the busted escalator.  Of course, there are other reasons for the bust but it isn’t a stretch to think a heap of litter would do it.  This isn’t a country that does well at “maintenance” either.  

Maybe it’s the money or maybe it’s defeated by the sheer number of people who managed to ignore infomercials and community relations clean up drives or run-for-a-cause in favor of trashy, exasperating TV programs that promote trashy attitude,  (misplaced/ mistaken?) sense of entitlement, shrill put-downs (or okrayan) as entertainment .  

Maybe it is the number of parents and nannies who proceed to throw bottles, half eaten food, plastic bags, barbecue sticks, corn cobs, fruit peels and peanut shells (we are big on street food) out the car or bus window while their grade school kids - who were taught at school to keep litter in their pockets or bag till they get to a trash can – silently watches and tries to figure out the conflicting ways of this world.

Maybe it isn’t nearly effective to enjoin the already aware middle and upper class to be the leading lights in these drives.  Sure, they are examples and the cause enjoys a week or more of exposure in print, radio or TV.  Sure, you get people to sign up but they are likely to be people who have the wherewithal to join (i.e. cars to get them to the venue; bikes, running shoes and whatever gear; time to spare; the belief that they do have a role and responsibility).  

Mostly, you get people of a certain class and target market because they fit the brand image and networking via exercise for a cause is noble and fits the whole two birds-one stone bit.  Except these are not the masses unable (or unwilling) to think beyond their preoccupation.  They are too exhausted from their daily woes to contemplate a higher plane; too cramped in their spaces and living in communal clutter (other people just a flimsy wall away) they are so inured (there’s my word again, put a “j” in it and it will hurt) they treat the space outside theirs the same way. It will be like us talking among ourselves and not really making a dent in the issue; or scientists discussing climate change and nobody else have that same urgency.  

As a friend used to say “walang (no) audio-video lock, (an advertising phrase where what you see does not go with the story or dialogue -the right connections or message are not made).  So maybe you have to take it to them.  Start with the housing estates.  That’s a big think too.  Some might not have pride of place because they’re renting from somebody.  Some estates start out nice and clean but too many people who cram more relatives or “bed spacers” add makeshift rooms that are ugly but serviceable.  

How can you relate? Think of it this way: you never can figure out what to wear.  You try on everything in your closet.  Before long clothes are everywhere; bags, shoes and accessories strewn on every available space.  You are in a hurry and think you’ll just straighten up when you get back (or have someone pick up after you) or shove all to the side until the weekend.  Or not.  It accumulates but still, these are precious clothes bought with hard-earned money you will use again.  After the neatening, order is restored.  Or maybe you just go on one of those shows like Clean House or something.
  
Not so with trash.  It is shoved to the side where it won’t bother you or clutter your space, maybe just someone else’s. Not fair to that someone, is it?  Seriously, don't you want to live in a place that has this???  Oh right, takes money!


P.S.  I loved Fraggle Rock when I was a kid. Strangely, I was fascinated with Marjorie the Trash Heap.  I would relish seeing the Trash Heap shake itself out of inertia, moving in a rumble and tumble of bits and pieces – leaves, cans, paper – drawing itself up in a tall heap (like a craggy, grungy Jabba The Hut) to dispense advice, two rats in attendance; afterwards folding in on itself and all is silent, as if an awesome pronouncement was made and mulled over.  I actually don’t remember what was said; only my amusement.  Years later, I would find a guy friend whom, despite his egotistical, sarcastic (but funny) views of women (but absolutely devoted to his girl, later his wife), was actually a great advisor on love and relationships and very good at propping up my ego.  He knows I hold his views against the ones of the guys I fell for (not that many) and consider myself lucky he wasn’t one of mine hahaha.  He likes Fraggle Rock too and is tickled (such a sport) that when I go to him for advise I would first bow and put my hands together as if in prayer and solemnly call to him “Oh, Great Trash Heap!”  I miss this friend, whom I lost touch with when he married and moved to the States.  What does it tell you that I thought of him and litterbugs in the same breath hahaha. Ok, no audio-video lock intended in this post script hehe..

I took the top picture (UP pavement, don't want to turn you off with real EDSA images hehehe) with my camphone.  There was a panoramic setting I tried only I forgot my view was on vertical mode hehehe.  Oh well, told you I have lots to be mindful of. 

Leaves are biodegradable so its okay to have them underfoot to crunch and throw in the air. Speaking of which, I found food boxes made of corn husk and camote or potato (I forget, I made a note of it but lost the note...sigh).  Landmark Supermarket Trinoma carries it.  I'll go back and check. Maybe I could use it for packaging when I start selling brownies and bars.  

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