Monday, October 31, 2005

A trashy proposal

This will no doubt surprise you, but I have an idea. Normally, I only get ideas during the ten seconds before I fall asleep, and then I can’t remember them in the morning, except for the vague feeling that they had something to do with tortilla chips. This time, though, I actually had one during the day.

Recently, as I walked to my car in a shopping center parking lot, I watched as a guy opened his car door, dumped a shopping bag full of trash onto the ground and drove away, leaving a pile of napkins, ketchup packets and wadded-up sandwich wrappers in his wake. That guy clearly was of the attitude that he’s Moe, everyone else is Curly, and doink! That was the sound of an eyeball gouge.

Sometimes, a muse can be found in the schmuckiest of people. For instance, as that guy drove away, I found myself musing, “Wouldn’t it be great if that guy had to eat all of the trash he just dumped?”

And that’s when it hit me. People should have to eat what they litter. The punishment perfectly matches the crime.

The only thing I’ll ever toss from a moving vehicle is an apple core, which I know is not cool, but I’m being honest. Okay, jeez, sometimes gum, too. Oh, and beer cans. And old tractor tires. But the point is that if you had to eat an apple core, it really wouldn’t be that big of deal. But the jerk who throws a bottle full of tobacco spit out the window, well, he gets to find out if chewing tobacco is any good as drinking tobacco.

Some people will probably say that this punishment is unworkable. “What if someone gets caught tossing a mattress?” you might ask. The fact of the matter is that people can eat anything. There’s a French guy who ate an entire airplane. Seriously – he ate a Cessna 150. It took him two years, but he did it. Google “Michel Lotito” if you think I’m blowing exhaust up your tailpipe.

The punishment would only last as long as it takes the offender to eat the litter -- you’d just have to sit there until you finished your plate, like I’ve been doing since 1986 with this plate of Brussels sprouts. I’ve been at the dinner table this whole time.

There is a precedent for this kind of idea. A while back, Jonathan Swift wrote the essay “A
Modest Proposal,” in which he proposed that poor people’s children should be fattened up and fed to the rich, in order to solve the most difficult and persistent problem of his time, which was a tremendous barbeque sauce surplus. They just didn’t have enough cows to put all of it on, so Swift said, “Hey, why not babies?” Many people thought Swift had written a brilliant satire, but that was only because they didn’t notice the tiny pieces of diaper stuck in his beard.

When Swift realized how much money he could rake in from the satire business, he decided to play along and pretend that he didn’t mean it literally. I also mean to be taken literally. I would spare you any attempts to score a really lame joke off of the fact that I mean to be taken litter-ally, but now it’s too late.

Haven’t we given “No Littering” signs enough of a chance? The $200 fine is obviously not scaring too many people. “No Littering” signs are as useless as whitening toothpaste, the numbers on baseball jerseys and humor columnists. What if the signs said something catchy like this instead: “LITTER: IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER.” It doesn’t quite rhyme, but I think it might in Latvian.

You can toss an email to Mike Todd at


  1. I was inspired by this post. I even found a Latvian to English translator online. Unfortunately, my girl needed help with her Halloween costume so I was foiled.

    Hope you don't get egged!

  2. You should run for mayor. I'd vote for you . . . If you lived in my town that is . . .

  3. Very interesting Mike Todd! You just might be onto something here....

  4. Dip spit ain't littering. I don't do it though. I just toss the soda can with a ripped off top into the litter basket.

  5. The thing about having to write a weekly column is that, at the end of the week, whether it's good or bad, it's done.

    That being said, thanks for your hypothetical vote for mayor, Michèle! And thanks for dropping by, y'all.