Litterers Ruin My Day

a radio commentary broadcast on Jefferson Public Radio's The Jefferson Daily
Tuesday, June 17, 1997
(c)1997 by Fred Flaxman

HOST: A few weeks ago, commentator Fred Flaxman and his wife took a two-day trip down I-5 to the foothills of the coastal mountains west of Chico, California. They were in search of wildflowers, but they found something else they weren't looking for.

FLAXMAN: The back roads of Tehama and Glenn counties twist and turn, rise and fall between rounded hills and strange lava rock formations. The area has an incredible beauty all its own even if you miss the height of the wildflower season, as it turned out we did. Still, there were California poppies, cream and mauve lupin, and dark purple larkspur along the roads, and the drive was most enjoyable.

This is not a part of California that attracts many tourists, and it was rare to come across another car. But after a few hours of pleasant driving we found ourselves behind a dirty, old red Audi with a badly cracked windshield -- a car which had obviously seen better days.

The Audi was going slowly, its two occupants apparently enjoying the scenery just as we were. All of a sudden the window on the passenger side opened slightly and an aluminum beverage container dropped out onto the road in front of us. "Oh how I hate litterbugs," I thought to myself. "How can people be so lazy, selfish and inconsiderate all at one time?"

I was about to say something along these lines to my wife when the Audi slowed down further, the door on the passenger side opened, and out came an entire brown paper shopping bag full of garbage. I honked my horn furiously and repeatedly, trying to embarrass the litterers as much as I could while stopping our car to pick up their trash.

They continued driving, neither speeding up nor slowing down. I was so angry and irrational I'm sure there would be two less litterers in the world today had I possessed a handgun. I would have gotten away with it, too, providing my wife didn't testify against me. The only other witnesses were the cows, horses, birds, trees, occasional sheep and what was left of the spring wildflowers.

My wife pleaded with me not to have a verbal confrontation with the couple in the Audi. After all, they were more likely to have a gun than I was, or at least know how to use their fists effectively.

There wasn't a policeman around, of course, and, stranger that I was to the area, I didn't know where to find one. So I stewed in my anger, frustrated that I could think of nothing I could do.

My wife urged me not to let this incident ruin our entire day, and I tried hard to listen to her good advice. We took down the Audi's license plate number and we passed the car. I gave the litterers the dirtiest look I was capable of, and drove on, trying to overcome my annoyance.

I hope that by some miracle the occupants of the Audi with California license plate 1AVM636 hear this broadcast and that they cringe with shame. But chances are they'll just continue littering California's otherwise gorgeous back country roads for some time to come.

This is Fred Flaxman.

HOST: Southern Oregon writer Fred Flaxman is working on a memoir called Sixty Slices of Life... on Wry. His comments are heard Tuesdays on The Jefferson Daily.