I’ve had a hard time titling this column. There are basically three things in life that make me want to use cuss words. People who are mean to other people (especially children and the otherwise weak), people who are mean to animals and people who litter. You can ask my fellow BeeShees and they will tell you that even when I’m getting stung or struggling with something in the beeyard, I’m far more likely to break out with, “Oh, golly, golly, golly!” than “Oh, ?#$!”

I’m not saying I never use bad words, I do. But it generally takes true anger and disgust to make me do it, unless I feel it will somehow add to the story. Today’s topic is one of my top three for cuss words, so I had a hard time determining a title that doesn’t include the few choice words that would best convey my feelings and add to the story, but I had to hold my tongue for publication.

Every day, as I walk my used-to-be-foster dogs Hansel and Gretel, we have to make frequent stops for them to sniff at the latest selection of fast food, take out and beer and soda packaging that has been deposited, usually with some manner of contents, along the street. You’re headed towards the country along my road and I like to joke that I live between a water treatment plant and a prison, so I understand that there may be a lower regard for the sanctity of my street. But, it is a very happy home for my neighbors and me and I can assure you that we are highly insulted by the total disregard for the scenery and sanitation in our neck of the woods.

I would like to think it is just one frequent carload of jerks who thinks this is an acceptable means of disposing of their waste, but I’m afraid there are more. I’m truly tempted to put up a camera. The old saying that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” leaves out the fact that the vast majority of trash is simply trash, and who in the world are you to think that it is someone else’s job to clean up yours?

By “you” I don’t mean you, of course. You would never do that, right? Which begs the question, “Who in the world would?”

This past week, Michael Sams of River Dog Outpost shared a photo on Facebook of the number of cigarette butts he picked up just outside the gates and into the parking area of the business. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen him post about the problem, last time it was in reference to the number he had picked up inside their pea gravel yard where customers gather. In this week’s post he made the point he hadn’t even gotten to that part yet. Within their confines there are numerous repositories and signage to guide you to them, yet people still throw them down, in and outside of the gates.

It prompted a lengthy discussion, as hot button social posts always do. Some people seemed to think he was bashing smoking, some people took it as an opportunity to bash smoking and I wondered if we needed to do a video of Mike standing beside his gate and crying over the garbage that was purely his point, like the famous 1971 “Crying Indian” ad. That ad was tremendously successful and played over and over in various mediums throughout the 1970s. I do think it had a positive impact on thoughtful people, but how do you wake up the less thoughtful? The ones who are not thinking past the fact that they are through with “that,” whatever it may be.

Unfortunately, this lack of regard for others is a pretty prevalent problem these days that crosses over into many topics. Last week I wrote about chivalry and someone asked me if what I was referring to was chivalry or etiquette. I was talking about the chivalrous behavior men display towards women as an example of the bigger picture that is etiquette, a basic code of polite behavior towards others.

If I have zero regard for anyone around me, it is easy for me to throw my trash down and move on to my next conquest. Zero concern for anyone but myself is what allows for cruelty, belittling, overconsumption and littering. Cue the cuss words. That simple golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” might work if people were thinking about others at all.

After I read Mike’s post, I sat at the red light at Broad Street and Second Avenue and watched a woman in a very nice pickup next to me crack the window to throw a used Band-aid on the street. I thought it was a cigarette butt and prepared to get out and hand it back to her, but when I saw it was her germy and disgusting Band-aid, I lost my nerve. I didn’t want to touch that! Why did she think anyone would? Who did she think was responsible for coming behind her to make sure that our streets don’t become piles of Band-aids, butts and burger wrappers? “Think” is exactly what she wasn’t doing. She was through with “that” and it was someone else’s problem now.

The very next day I saw a friend post about a horseback trail ride she was on in the national forest in a neighboring county and she laid out a laundry list of items she came across from porn to dead dogs, things you would never want to encounter in the woods, nor anywhere else! I don’t know the answer nor do I see it changing anytime soon, but we have to get back to a culture that demands that we treat each other with basic respect before we will see an end to mindless insults such as these. Do you have an answer?

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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