David Moseley

Local is litter

2013-05-28 09:52

David Moseley

One of the great joys of working in the Cape Town CBD is being able to saunter through the streets early morning or around lunch time and watch the people go by.

In my recent past, a slow walk home through the city centre always guaranteed some interesting sights and experiences too, like the time a 9-year-old showed me the sharp edge of his switchblade before scarpering off with my tog bag and a week's worth of smelly gym gear. That cheeky rascal. They grow up so fast.

You see people at their best and their worst, a local lad guiding some over-equipped visitors away from the city's seedier alleys, another local guiding those same visitors directly towards the alley they've just narrowly avoided. Silly tourists.

Me, I like to watch the gleeful eyes of the less well-meaning Capetonians lurking in the city when the busloads of oblivious Germans descend on Greenmarket Square, sadly Cape Town's most grim and overrated tourist attraction.

But what I also see is the everyday disrespect of Capetonians for their fellow citizen and their surroundings.

Last week I was walking through the Company Gardens, doing my best to avoid the albino squirrel of terror that once sighted means you have less than 23 minutes to live, when a well-dressed woman walking towards me casually chucked her empty Fritos packet to the ground. There was a bin no more than an outstretched arm away from her.

I don't know why, but nothing irks me more than litterers. With so much happening in a country like ours, it seems an odd thing to fret over. But it absolutely drives me to the brink.

Maybe it was (literally) hammered into me at school, where a discarded scrap of paper could result in a character-building beating (just a small hiding, really. Calm down you anti-corporal punishment freaks).

Or maybe it's because I believe that if you litter, you're a malevolent sod with only the worst intentions at heart.

I stopped on the path and approached the woman. "There's a bin just over there," I said, calmly I might add, lest you think me a raving loony with wild eyes and an overzealous greeny's attitude to save the Siberian whelk first and the children second.

"Hey?" she replied in a tone that I can't quite describe in words, but if I were to try, would probably say sounded something like a dog yelping while being crushed under a whining Formula One car.

I bent down to pick up the packet. "Here, the packet that you so cruelly abandoned to the wild. Send it home to his friends. Put it in the bin. It's just a centimetre away."

Staring blankly through me, like I'd just landed from the Limpopo and asked for directions to the nearest tender office, she shrugged her shoulders and stomped on, leaving me to clean up behind her.

I have no doubt she went home that night and thought long and hard about her indiscretion, finally resolving to turn her wicked ways around, dedicating her remaining days to cleaning the streets with dignity.

Or not. She probably did the same thing the next day. And continues to do it every day, showing scant regard for everyone around her.

It's the simple things that make a difference. If you don't care enough to throw a piece of rubbish in a bin, how can you possibly care about anything else?

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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