Sounding Off: The low-down on Laguna's litter

What would it take to diminish the beauty of Laguna Beach? Litter! Walking around in Laguna Beach residents and visitors both enjoy and appreciate its wonderful sights, that is, if they don't look down. Looking down reveals a less than wonderful sight, unless what it is that you wonder about is why some people do litter.

Consider the impact of some people who smoke. How they dispose of their cigarette butts in public after finishing smoking is an example. I used to smoke but stopped when I was a little boy after my parents caught me smoking my father's cigarettes and spanked me. Thank you, Mom and Dad. Nevertheless, even though I don't smoke, the smoking of others still has an impact on my life, health and the environment. Smokers have every right to smoke and I wouldn't presume to take that away from them except when they waft their smoke into my face and litter the streets and sidewalks.

Thoughtless smokers stand out not only by the smell they emit, but also by their discarding of not only cigarette butts, but also discarding empty cigarette packages, matches and empty matchbooks on sidewalks and in the street. It seems to be no trouble for smokers to carry their cigarettes for several blocks while they're out walking and smoking, but it appears to be burdensome for them to carry their cigarette butts just a block or so further to properly dispose of them in a nearby trash bin. The city provides many such bins all over town some of them with specific cigarette butt receptacles. There are even sidewalk buckets filled with sand for discarded cigarette butts. What more can the city do?

Even so, cigarette butts can seen discarded on the ground within a few feet of those receptacles. Smoking drivers operate a little differently. They toss their cigarette butts out on to the street, or if they do place them in their vehicle's ashtray, they later empty the ashtray on to the street or curb. To some extent the ashtray users are half way towards doing the right thing.

Now, let's consider gum chewers. Sidewalks and streets are adorned with gum wrappers and wads of gooey gum. Have you checked the bottom of your shoes lately? Then, how about candy eaters who drop candy wrappers. How about beverage drinkers who drop cans, bottles and straws. Even some apparently health conscious people drop their yogurt containers on the ground. Finally, how about fastfooders who decorate our town with pizza boxes and Styrofoam food containers (some with food still in them) along with plastic knives, forks, spoons, and ketchup, mustard and jelly packets. Ahh, take out and convenience foods.

This report now gets a bit crappy. It's time to mention pet owners who uncaringly leave their pet's droppings wherever they fall. All one can do is watch where they step. While on the subject of body excretions, let's talk about spiting and blowing one's nose. Handkerchiefs have been around for a long time. Tissues are a more recent innovation but they are too easy to be dropped to the ground too.

In spite of these available amenities, too many people insist on spitting on the ground. Who knows what germs they share with their neighbors. And there are those who blow out their noses on to the ground. It's so important to some of these loud nose blowers that they make it sound like a fanfare. Unfortunately, there is an excretory surprise that is sometimes seen that I'm reluctant to mention, but I will anyway. It is coming (pun not intended) upon a discarded yucky used condom. How does a mother explain such a find to her inquisitive kids? OK guys (I'm pretty sure it's not the gals), have all the fun you want in the back seat of your car, but please spare us the climactic result.

I wish that the above comments were exaggerations, but if you walk around town and look down as well as around, you'll know that they are not. Laguna Beach has become a littered town and no one seems to care.

Niko Theris lives in Laguna Beach.

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