Broadsided again.

Ok, so I had a little bit of a thing today with some woman, and I'd like to know your thoughts. I had to run to the antique mall to pay my rent and pick up my check. I'm sitting at the light at 83rd and Mission. My windows are down, I'm listening to music, and I'm done with my cigarette. (lets set aside the whole issue of my smoking for now)

My arm is resting on the window sill, and I toss my butt out the window. Suddenly, the woman in the white VW van in left turn lane slightly behind me sits on her horn. I turn and look, and she's saying something, but of course her window is closed and I don't read lips so I turn back to face the light.

Woman then pulls up next to me, and this follows:

Screaming Woman: "Don't you have an ashtray?"
Me: "Not one I'm prepared to use."
Screaming Woman: "That's disgusting blah blah blabbety blah!"
Me: "Oh my God."
Screaming Woman: "You're shocked that someone would blah blah blah..."
Me: -rolls up window-

Ok. I'm fully aware that by throwing my cigarette out of the car I've littered. But I also know that on the floor in my back seat, is a collapsable waste bin that I bought at the auto parts store. In it you will find coffee cups, cigarette boxes, receipts, bags, and all sorts of things that will be deposited into a trash can when next I clean out the car.

I believe that while not perfect, I deserve some credit for not just tossing everything out of the car. I remember the indian chief and that tear rolling down his face as he stood by the side of the highway, and he made a difference. I also know that while I enjoy cigarettes, they smell bad when they're dead and I've NEVER used an ashtray in any car I've owned.

The result here is not that I'm ashamed of dropping my butt on the street. The end result is that I feel like a doormat. If VW woman was trying to shame me into not tossing butts from the car she has failed. I've spent the remainder of the day not regretting what I did, but regretting that my first words to her weren't "Who the fuck do you think you are?"

I see things that I disagree with every day. The way people drive, the way they handle their kids, their lack of respect for people and surroundings. The world is full of things I think are wrong. And you know what I do most of the time? I keep my damn mouth shut because while it may effect me in some small way, mostly it's not my business.

Brett thinks she was wrong to scream at me, but more than that he doesn't think I should throw my smokes on the street.

How about you, any wisdom to share?


Yankee in England said...

Okay in a perfect world yes no one would throw their butts out the car window. That said the woman needs to get a life. I walk to the train station every morning and then from the train station to work and there are no bins for me to put a butt in either from my house to the train station or the train station to work (has to do with IRA bombing in the 90s they took all the bins out of London) my only option is to flick them in the street or to carry something with me at all time to put my butts in, guess which I do?

Lisa and pups said...

WOW, that woman was incredibly rude. And, kudos for not throwing those coffee cups and various other articles stashed in your backseat bin in the trash after she said that!

I guess I'm the odd one, but my issues with littering are because it makes it so much more difficult to walk with a dog down the street. Since I'm training her to be a potential guide dog - we have to not sniff anything along the street and that means we walk in very car heavy traveled locations (not just around the block) that often don't have sidewalks.

Although all that litter makes for good distraction training, and she has to learn to ignore all that, it does make it easier if there isn't any litter. Butts and gum seem to be the most appealing type of trash though. Even exiting the back door at work to use our (or rather her) potty spot is like going through the doggy gauntlet every day because there are hundreds (if not thousands) of butts on the ground. (Eventually they put in a bin for them - but it took a year so you can imagine).

I'd never dream of complaining to those users though. I just figured it's something she has to learn to ignore and decided to use it as a training opportunity - thus hopefully turning it into a positive.

Jill said...

This is coming from a woman who signed a piece of paper in the FIRST grade that I would not litter...the crying Indian was behind the letter signing. He actually came to our school! I really try not to litter. But the screaming woman. Wow! She must be off her meds.

I have a friend who smokes. He keeps a covered cup in the car with a little bit of water in it and disposes of his cigarettes there. He said it helps with the odor...who knows?

Confessions: I spit my gum out of the car...straight from my mouth. I think it's hilarious. My husband...not so much.

Reggie Darling said...

As a former smoker who routinely threw my butts on the street, I have come to realise that doing so is something I regret. I own a house on a busy street, and every weekend I spend a half hour or so picking up cigarette butts and other assorted trash (fast food containers, beer bottles, an occasional shoe) that people have thrown out their car windows and that have landed on my lawn or driveway. Please reconsider your practice of tossing cigarette butts in that light -- someone has to pick them up or they sit there as litter. Oh, by the way, that witch that screetched at you is a jerk.

manlycow said...

Agree with Brett.
Perhaps on alternate days you could toss out your coffee cup and deposit your cigarette butt in the unused ashtray.
Oh, and if you don't like the smell in your car, imagine how one feels picking up the cigarette butt THAT YOU WERE SUCKING!
Just a thought...

amymezzell said...

I think the woman acted kind of crazy, but I DO wish people wouldn't flick their butts out the window. It is technically littering, and someone has to clean it up; thanks for not throwing all your other trash out, though! My husband was following a smoker on the road once. When they flicked their cigarette, it apparently flew back and got stuck in between his hood and windshield and kept smoking, which made his whole car smoke up. He had to stop the car to fish it out so it didn't catch something on fire. They can also fly into people's windows that are driving behind you.

home before dark said...

Times change and so must our behavior. Case in point: when my husband was growing up his very proper, very Jr. Leaguer, house-proud mother would have her husband pull as far over to the curb as possible so that she could throw the pop bottles into people's yards and not break them on the street where they could damage people's tires. When driving herself, the very tall, former cracker-jack tennis player perfected the across the hood lob with deadly aim. Don't find many people doing that these days because we have learned better. Dog and animal lover that you are, it may be time to for this old dog to learn not be a butt litterer. The butts can kill birds and other wildlife. As much as I hate cigarettes (killed my parents and my father-in-law), I would not have screamed at you.

miriam said...

Oooh, I'm completely NOT with you on this one. Littering is everybody's really should figure out a way to keep your cigarette butts to yourself.

Cigarette butts do not decompose very quickly--I know because I volunteer with my local neighborhood association to clean up our streets and there are always a TON of butts--and not just fresh ones either. Why on earth should you leave a mess for someone else to clean up?

I know, I know, you're thinking it's only a little butt, but they add up. And it's been in your MOUTH. Iww. Also, I'm not sure why you think you should be applauded for not throwing ALL of your trash out the car window. For heaven's sake, should we applaud you for NOT stealing, or NOT kicking little old ladies? (I'm going to assume you don't do those things.)

The thing is, how hard is it to dispose of your trash properly? It's our responsibility as citizens. You're obviously a thoughtful person, please re-think your position on this.

Toad said...

David: deep down I suspect you know the right thing to do.

David said...

I'm not sure Toad, but I'm reading and keeping an open mind.

I think that item size is a factor, but I see that I'm squarely in the minority on that. It won't kill me to look at alternatives.

Most do seem to agree that VW Woman's approach was wrong, and that's a relief.

Rory Carlton said...

If she hadn't brought it to your attention, you wouldn't be giving it any thought. So while I agree that it was embarrassing for you, I think that was the point, and I am glad that she has made you think about this.

I don't buy the argument that you deserve credit for not tossing more stuff onto the street. That's like saying well I only shoplifted a candy bar, not a Prada jacket. What's wrong is wrong and not doing a bigger wrong doesn't make it right.

I hate it for you but I am glad she made you consider all this.

soodie :: said...

We all have done things we know we probably shouldn't have, but the screaming can be so shocking and ugly we put up a thick wall, and rightly so. You can't hear the message when people scream. All you do is either get angry or cower or do what you can to make it go away.

Carol-Leah said...

PLEASE Stop that disgusting habit (both the smoking and the chucking of butts into the public areas.) If they aren't good enough for your car then they aren't good enough for spaces I may be in.

Decorina said...

It seems that everything worthwhile has been said. I completely agree that the witch was out of line to scream at you. That said, throwing your used butts out of the car is just not right. I used to live on a busy one way street and the number of used butts was awful. They don't degrade at all and picking them up was a horrid task.

That said, the guy who threw his used butts in my yard that horrified me the most lawn care guy! It just killed me that he would come and tidy the yard, smoking the whole time and then leave 3/4 butts for me to pick up and trash. The irony.

When we know better we do better. You know what to do.

ChrisToronto said...

David, I don't suppose you were expecting more condemnation. Ouch, I feel your pain.

Living the life in The Little City said...

Other drivers should focus on their driving and not on the personal habits of fellow motorists.

soodie :: said...


WOW didn't expect such a charged response to this post. Though, it isn't the nicest thing to see butts on the ground (especially as Home said not good for the birds), I bet YOU are the considerate type who actually cleans up after your dogs during walks and doesn't leave piles of poo for other people to step in. Many people do not consider that littering.

David said...

I am pretty rigid about the dog poop clean up. Actually, I've noticed that most everyone in my building is good about cleaning up after their dogs.

One neighbor has a rhodesian ridgeback, and since she's carrying a larger bag, she even picks up trash while she's waiting for him to do his thing.

Karena said...

David, like Soodie I am sure the # of comments you received on this was not expected. When I live in San Diego there would be certain off ramps where you would literally see hundreds of butts to the side of the street. I always wondered where they all came from, why someone did not clean them up, and why they did not disintegrate! Now I know the answers!

Karena said...

PS Yes her reaction was over the top, it did get you thinking about it though, and open to other opinions on the subject.

hello gorgeous said...

Even though I love you David, I'm with Brett and, frankly, her.

I don't understand why educated people litter. I just don't. The filter isn't degradable and you're just leaving it for someone else to pick up or to stay on the roadside along with all the other millions of smokers who think their butts don't matter.

Worse, though, is when I have to step around a pile of cigarette butts in a parking lot from someone emptying their ashtray there. I don't get it. (And don't even get me started on spitting...)

And Jill!! When I step in gum from now on, I will curse you.

Jill said...

I know gorgeous! I deserve it. This post has made me a better woman though. I will never spit out my gum again...even though I've developed an amazing arc and long-range. My gum spitting days are over!

Paula P. said...

The following quote is from

"It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year. That's billions of cigarettes flicked, one at a time, on our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, gardens, and other public places every single day. In fact, cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, NOT COTTON, and they can take decades to degrade. Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal."

Kind of takes the wind out of your "item size" argument.

Judy said...

I love your blog and think you're hilarious, but I don't think you should be tossing butts out the window. My boyfriend is a smoker and he also dumps the cellophane from the pack on the ground! Or he used to until I started yelling at him about it. Cigarette smokers don't seem to think of their ciggie stumps as litter, which is weird. The rest of us do.

I am also the kind of harridan who once shit-shamed a woman who wasn't going to pick up after her dog, so there's that.