In what is becoming an annual Labor Day tradition, I had the pleasure of picking up litter in Austin Park following the Fire Department’s Field Days and fireworks. While the haul, just four 50-gallon trash bags, was modest in comparison to other years, it was satisfying. The record for loaded diapers — seven — was safe; this year the crowd managed only one. However, I did find a sanitary napkin, a new item for me. And there was a zip-lock bag containing a stool sample; my thanks to whoever bagged it before dropping it on the grass.
Of course, there were the usual cans and bottles, paper plates, plastic nacho trays and cheese tubs, cups, straws, napkins and used wet wipes. The napkins and wipes I find interesting as they are a sign that people are fastidious, but their sense of cleanliness does not extend one centimeter past their own person. And speaking of cleanliness, the amount of trash left behind in the parking area speaks well for Americans’ concern for their cars. There were many cans and bottles, and only one beer bottle was crushed; it took about five minutes to pick every piece out of the mud, but I’d rather some dog or child did not find the shards with his or her feet.
Among the interesting items this year: four “Got Milk” buttons (three purple, one green); one black 100% polyester clip-on tie; in three separate locations, three socks (two white, one black); a ping-pong ball; a purple pacifier; a black winter coat; a 10-pack of nicotine gum; a rain-soaked cardboard box of latex gloves. That last one was creepy.
I also found two metal parts from the rides. One wonders how the rides will perform without these parts, or if they are just something optional like safety devices.
Conspicuous in their absence: no coins, bills, wallets or cellphones. People are holding onto their valuables more carefully in 2011.