David Sedaris is a tenacious trash picker and I want to be one too.
After moving to a picturesque French village, the humorist was horrified at how the otherwise lush landscape was constantly littered with trash. Sedaris’ essay “Rubbish,” from his most recent collection of essays Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, reads, “When I mentioned the trash to the neighbors, they agreed that it was as disgrace. ‘It wasn’t like this thirty years ago,’ said the woman in the house to the right of ours. She couldn’t tell me why things had changed. It was just part of the general decline. In that regard, it was like graffiti, something that had inexorably spread until people lost the will to fight against it.”
But Sedaris is a willfull man, and rather than leave the litter and wait for someone else to possibly remove it, the author embarked on his own daily crusade to keep the region clean. Looking like a common criminal condemned to community service or a scavenging vagrant, the otherwise elegant gentleman seems to relish the indignities of filthy fingernails, mud spattered clothes, and attacks from agressive foilage. When Out magazine asked Sedaris how the obsession started, the author shrugged, “I’ve always been pretty clean inside my house, and I just kinda moved it outside. I picked up rubbish today. I think I’ll do it tomorrow. And I did it the day before yesterday. It’s just sort of what I do now.”
“I’ve always been pretty clean inside my house, and I just kinda moved it outside. I picked up rubbish today. I think I’ll do it tomorrow. And I did it the day before yesterday. It’s just sort of what I do now.” — David Sedaris
I’m not as dilligent as Sedaris yet, but he’s definitely inspired something in me. My first step has been cleaning up the couches. It’s a city-wide epidemic, discarded furniture hanging out on the curb, but my neighborhood in particular is really teeming with stinky sofas unfit for a home. When there got to be six in a two block radius, I couldn’t take it anymore. It turns out, in L.A. the Bureau of Sanitation takes away large furniture for free with a simple phone call to (800) 773-2489. I tried to think of a Sedaris-esque way to share this information with my neighbors via perhaps a memo or flier, but couldn’t come up with a way that didn’t create more litter. Until then, I take down the house numbers where dirty davenports reside, and call with the list. It takes about two minutes.
Another common sense step I take is picking up after my dog. It seems basic, but some folks must really have a tough time bending over or suffer a shortage of old grocery bags in their home. There are entire stretches of our curbs that look like a cat box, but much less, um, delicate. Even the cutest pooch’s potty carries parasites, dangerous infectuous diseases, viruses, and bacteria, such as E. coli. We pick up after our pup though, and sometimes I grab a handful of someone else’s too while I’ve got the little poop bag wrapped around my hand.
And now I have a plan in place to start picking the other litter and debris. I figure, when I walk the dog each morning I’ll make it a part of my routine with her. I’ll take three grocery bags: one for number two, one to wrap my hand with to pick things up, and one to deposit both of those bags and the trash in. After a few mornings, I feel like it could really make a difference.
What steps are you willing to take to contribute to a cleaner curbside in your neighborhood? — Casandra Armour