Smokers drown campus in apathy

So I hate smokers. Well, OK, not all of them, but most of them. And yes, maybe not for the common reasons — you know, the whole “smoking is bad for you” thing. Perhaps it’s a stereotype to condemn the University’s smoking public as a bunch of worthless, careless litterers who don’t care about themselves or anyone else. Eh, but that’s just me. OK, everyone who took advantage of the weather this week and lounged around on the mall, mind if I pose a pop quiz? No, don’t flip to BackTalk yet, the quiz is pretty straightforward: two questions, no problem.
Question one: Was the grass comfy?
Question two: How about the cigarette butts?
Yep, the wonderful, so-called biodegradable by-product of smoking. Cigarette butts are the number-one form of litter at the University. Trying to walk through campus without stepping on one is reminiscent of Indiana Jones sidestepping dart-launching trigger mechanisms in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Unfortunately, it’s likely the wrong people are reading this column. The smokers that continue to litter the University with their discarded cigarette butts probably took a glance at the headline and the illustration and decided the column wasn’t worth their time. They’ll never realize how much we loathe them. Good. Since they’re not reading this, the rest of us can begin our secret strategy against them.
We’ll play a game. Let’s call it “Make the Butt-Throwers Feel Dumb.” Here’s how to play. If you see some jerk, er, smoker throw their cigarette butt on the ground, yell, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Hey! Pick up your stinky cigarette butt!” If you hear someone else yell this out, quickly pinpoint the person they’re yelling at, and then you yell it, too! “Hey! Pick up your stinky cigarette butt!” And so on. Eventually even the most forbidding foe will have to cave in with such a large group yelling at them.
Now, many smokers won’t want to play our game. So what? All the more fun for us. The more a smoker refuses to pick up their cigarette butt, the more of us can yell at them. If the smoker doesn’t cave, they’ll surely walk away, hoping we’ll leave them alone. Don’t. Yell at them as they walk away from you. Make sure you yell loud enough for the people they’re walking toward. That way they can play the game, too.
Yell super loud. Walk right behind them. Become their shadow. Sit by them in class, even if it’s not your class. Do they have a cell phone? Get the number. Where do they hang out? Now you hang out there, too. Remember how the Animaniacs would annoy someone in an episode and call them their “special friend?” Well, do that. Doesn’t this sound fun?
Some of you might feel uncomfortable yelling “Hey! Pick up your stinky cigarette butt!” to a total stranger. The key to making our game work is safety in numbers. If you hear someone yell at a smoker, join in. Help them out. Keep saying it until the smoker picks up their butt. If you aren’t comfortable with initiating a cry of outrage, at least support those who do.
The only way this plan of action will work is to have everyone helping each other. Yeah, I know. Cooperation — yuck. Sure, it was cool on “Sesame Street,” but not at college. But think about it this way. How many times has someone you know or even you yourself said that you’re paying too much for school? It’s a fairly common thought when considering tuition, housing fees, student services fees, what have you. Now think about it this way — aren’t you paying too much to go to school here to have everyone else let it go to hell? For all the money you’re paying, aren’t you entitled to have a clean campus without some selfish smoker throwing their stinky, stupid, yucky cigarette butts all over the place?
Unfortunately, cigarette butts aren’t the University’s only trash concern. Let’s face it: There are a lot of people who just plain don’t care where they throw their trash. It rarely makes it into the wastebaskets. When it does, it usually ends up in the recycling bins instead. It’s sad, really. Sure, it can be a pain to walk around campus with a pop bottle until you find a bottle-recycling bin or hold on to a candy bar wrapper until you find a wastebasket. Still, if you just toss it on the ground, and keep this attitude about all of your trash, it sure as hell adds up fast.
How much trash does someone at the University produce? Let’s say they have a coffee in the morning. Now, that’s at least a cup and a lid, maybe a stir stick or a sugar packet, perhaps a cream container, a couple of napkins, and so on. That’s a lot of trash for “one” item.
Don’t drink coffee? Hmm, how about gum? Yeah, lots of people like that stuff. So let’s say you have a five-stick package of chewing gum. First, there’s the tear-away portion of the package that allows you access to the minty goodness. Then there’s an outer and inner wrapper per individual stick of gum. Then there’s the outer package itself. We’re talking at least twelve pieces of trash just ready to be thrown on the ground. That’s not even counting the five pieces of A.B.C. gum destined to find their way under a desk somewhere on campus.
The point is, trash adds up. No, actually, the point is, don’t litter. Smokers, gum chewers, coffee drinkers, candy eaters, Daily readers, everyone. Don’t litter. The game I mentioned above? This game will work for any kind of litter. If you see someone drop any kind of trash, simply modify the phrase to fit the situation.
I’m sick of it. Aren’t you? Then do something about it. Hey! Pick up your stinky cigarette butt!
Nate Melcher is a Daily illustrator and cartoonist. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]