Saturday, August 02, 2008

Durham detritus

The other morning, on one of my early morning walks with my dog, I came across a large box, and packing materials, scattered along Route 9, just prior to the gravel pit, headed south.

I’ve lived in Durham for nearly 19 years, now. Durham had been a farming community for much of its existence, and like similar communities with an abundance of open space, the last 20 years has witnessed substantial growth via residential development taking place.

I live on a section of Route 9, the road to Bradbury Mountain. I regularly walk this busy thoroughfare, along with Bernie, my 13-year-old Sheltie. Most often, my walks are in the morning, just after 5:00 am, before I head out to work. I rarely take my walks in the evening, when I return home, because Route 9 resembles a NASCAR track, with heavy traffic, and drivers that feel like they own the road, and aren’t willing to share it with a man walking his dog.

It wasn’t always this bad. When we first built, 19 years ago, the road was busy, but the volume was noticeably less, and drivers tended to drive slower, and extend courtesy to anyone out for a walk.

In addition to an increase in traffic, and driver boorishness, there has also been a substantial increase in the amount of roadside trash. This refuse comes compliments of drivers rolling down their windows and hurling unwanted items out and along the roadside.

Apparently, drivers feel that it’s alright to bomb down this road, exceeding the 45 MPH speed limit that I personally feel should be lowered, as the area is now residential, with three major subdivisions feeding into it; they also no longer have qualms about dumping their beer bottles, fast food bags, and wrappers, construction materials, in this case, appliance packaging. Worse, I now regularly find dirty diapers strewn along this two mile stretch of road.

We seem to have crossed a societal Rubicon of sorts. No longer is littering seen as an act of wrongdoing, and a blight on the community. In fact, most of these sows probably don’t even think twice. These are probably the same folks that cut you off in traffic, cut in front of you in the store (without saying “excuse me”), steal from their employers, and are raising a generation of children with no concept of respect, or etiquette, or morality.

I close with this story to show that I’m truly old-fashioned in the values, and etiquette that I value, which was instilled in me, at a formative age.

My mother, who my sister and I used to call, “Emily Post,” was a stickler for etiquette. If we were out in public, my mother would insist that I hold the door for anyone behind me, entering a building. She would say, “A young man always holds a door for others.”

We were taught to say, “thank you,” if anyone gave us a sample in a store, and “excuse me,” if we happened to cut in front of someone, while out shopping with her.

When I was eight, or nine, coming back from the dentist with my mother, she decided to treat me to a hamburger at McDonalds. This was back in the day when McDonalds was a special treat, not the second family home, like it is today.

For some reason, we ate in the car, and as we were returning home, and I had completed my meal, I rolled down the window and tossed my trash out. My mother yelled, “what did you just do?”

“I threw my McDonalds bag out the window,” I stammered, embarrassed, knowing I had done something seriously wrong.

My mother has never been a great driver, so it was with great effort that she pulled the large Plymouth Fury off to the side of the road, and pulled a U-turn, returning to the scene of my crime. When we were off the side of the road, she demanded that I get out of the car and get my garbage. Cars were passing by, a couple honked, and I was embarrassed, and mortified.

To this day, nearly 40 years later, I still think of that experience, if I’m ever tempted to even drop a gum wrapper on the sidewalk, let alone toss trash out my window.

Obviously, the pig that offloaded their packing material for their grill, didn’t have a mother (or father) that taught him/her very much about etiquette and social responsibility. Sadly, it appears that an entire generation of adults missed these valuable lessons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of a couple of things while reading Jim's sad story of where we've come to. Heard Chris Matthews during his appearance on Leno recently "quip" that everyone should listen to their kids...[and vote accordingly?] I seem to have heard that song the generation of '68 out did their parents in raising considerate offspring, and have a monopoly on caring...That was about when the largest generation of kids ever got to go to college were taught there that all that came before them was devoid of wisdom, to be jettisoned. That they had come upon The Way, and no one over 30 is to be trusted.

Just when I heard Matthews, I recalled that I saw "Alice's Restaurant", broadcast not too long ago, and my suffering through only to compare each of the scenes with how I remembered them. I never found Arlo dumping the trash out of his VW Bus in the Birkshires and all the smug snarkyness at being hauled into court to be helpful in forming any sympathy with a world view 'we'll find our own way' 'leave those kids alone' 'Imagine all the People' and the like. I wonder, yes I'm wondering if Matthews would turn a car around if he saw trash tossed out the window, or just roll his eyes in the rear view mirror, and vainly whine a tepid "awe come on guys....don't you know better than that?" towards the back seat... image of what was to become now it is with some irony that they who thought that everyone should listen to their omniscient youthful observations are about old enough to collect their pensions. And even that will join the list of things we don't appreciate until it is lost. Many were busy buying some nice cars, houses, and paying Psychiatrists to see what made their kid's so sullen.

I'm not sure which was more tedious seeing that movie yet again, or reading Gibbons one hit wonder, on world history.