Image via WikipediaI think I can safely generalize that most men and all children don't pick up after themselves. I've lived with this predicament since my daughter was born, so I am not extremely sensitive to this fact of life. But sometimes I can't help myself, and I resist the urge to pick up stuff just to see what might happen.
I have a friend who made picking up stuff one of her life's missions. Every morning when she takes her dogs and husband for their morning walk on the beach at freezing temperatures, she carries a plastic bag and collects stuff. Not love notes or exotically dressed genies sealed in bottles that have been carried across the oceans, mind you. She once found a functioning lap top and a hundred dollar bill left by a pile of wet firewood. But most of the time she picks up empty beer cans and garbage left behind by drunks and other environmentally challenged segments of humanity.
I, on the other hand, have no special affinity for things discarded by thoughtless strangers. I pick up stuff on a whim. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, depends on my mood and depends on the offender. Paper napkins, old newspapers, an empty bag of chips? Yes. Used diapers? Absolutely not. Heads of lettuce? Maybe.
Last week on my daily outing to the semi-wilderness area where I walk almost every day to clear up my mind and enjoy the outdoors, I saw a head of lettuce lying on the sidewalk by the paved road. It looked fresh and crispy and not one of its leaves were missing. It was a strange encounter, my brain noted to itself. What does a head of lettuce do on a sidewalk in the semi-wilderness all by itself? It couldn't have fallen from someone's pocket or thrown out of a car window. That would be stupid. And it wasn't the typical offender found by the side of many country roads; the stained paper coffee cup, the hamburger wrapper, the plastic soft drink bottle.
I decided to leave the lettuce where it was, and let the wild life enjoy it. There's a lot of wildlife in the area: rabbits, deer, coyotes, wild turkeys, raccoons, and crazy squirrels who make suicidal dashes across the road to get from one side of nowhere to the other side of nowhere. One of them might be happy to find this head of lettuce.
The next day I saw the lettuce again, still lying intact on the sidewalk. And the next day. And the next day. A week later it was still there. Wilted, some of its leaves separated from the head and lying next to it. But still there, lying on the sidewalk. Waiting.
I couldn't understand why that lettuce was still there. It's been a week already. Other people must have seen it. As it was lying in the middle of the sidewalk, one had to step over it in order not to step on it, and I could see that no one stepped on it. It was certainly wilted, but not stepped on. And certainly unmoved. Or more accurately un-removed.
And how come the squirrels didn't take it? What was wrong with them or with the lettuce? The sidewalk was not attached to any building. Waist-high grass, an oak tree, an electric pole, dirt and more dirt. Some deep holes in the ground, and lots of little rocks was all that one could see by that sidewalk. And a head of lettuce lying on it, waiting to be picked up.
Am I the only person who noticed it? What about all the other people who walk by it? Doesn't it bother them that a head of lettuce lies in the middle of the sidewalk? It started to feel as if this wilting lettuce was testing me. Are you or are you not going to pick me up? How long are you going to pretend that you don't care about me? I know you want to pick me up. I know you can't ignore me. I know you can't resist.
But what about all the other people, I wanted to ask the lettuce, this annoying lettuce who's been lying there for over a week, testing my resolve not to pick it up.
The next day I gave up. But instead of picking it up and taking it to the nearest trash can, I kicked it and it landed in the yellow waist-high grass. I felt very accomplished and self-righteous. I was the only person who took decisive action while all the other people treated it as if it did not exist. I was the only one who felt connected to that stupid head of lettuce enough to remove it from the sidewalk.
Yesterday there was no sign of lettuce in the waist-high grass.
I think I will never look at lettuce the same again.