(Note: We need Dear Crabby submissions. This is the very last one on the stack. So, please, if you want this column to run next week, send me your complaints and questions and gripes and irritations. Hell, send me your cookie recipes; I’ll critique those. I just need submissions. I’ll keep you anonymous and give you the very best bad advice I can come up with. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Dear Crabby.” Please just do it. Otherwise, they’re going to make me actually work.)
I live in Naches Heights. Every day I drive to work down Young Grade, and then along the river toward town. Coming down that last, steep stretch of Young Grade, I get to enjoy a view of the mountains, the river and sometimes a lovely sunrise.
At the bottom of the grade there’s a pull-out area where you can stop and look out over the river. If you’re lucky, you may see a bald eagle or two. Sounds beautiful doesn’t it?
That is, until you look down and around you. Garbage is everywhere. I once saw a man taking big metal barrels off the back of a truck and rolling them into the bushes. More recently someone left a torn-up bucket seat right out in the open, not even trying to hide it.
On a single drive to work I saw an old mattress, what appeared to be a rolled-up piece of carpet wrapped in plastic (hopefully with no body rolled up inside) and several large bags of garbage along the road. Not to mention bottles, cans, diapers, plastic bags and other junk. So much for the beauty of living in the countryside.
What to do? I’d love to see the old-style chain gangs working under the steady gaze of an armed guard (picture Tommy Lee Jones or Clint Eastwood) but I suppose that’s no longer politically correct. Sigh.
I turn to you for help. Please share some wisdom with the rest of us. And after you fix this, maybe you could tackle world peace?
Sincerely, Tired of Trash
Sorry it took so long to respond to this complaint. I had forgotten I had it (until I realized I didn’t have any others).
I got your email last May, right before Crabby took a nearly yearlong hiatus. So for all I know, people have stopped littering on Young Grade by now.
Kidding! Of course they haven’t. People are the worst.
Anyway, back when I first got your email I asked Ed Campbell, director of the Yakima County Department of Corrections, why we don’t have inmate work crews anymore. Turns out political correctness doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s been less than a decade since Yakima County used them, and the reason they stopped is that the crews were funded by contracts with cities and with grants.
It costs roughly $125,000 to $145,000 per crew per year (mostly to pay the officer supervising it). When city budgets tightened, those contracts were allowed to expire. That’s why you don’t see any Cool Hand Lukes working on the side of the road around here.
I offer this bit of information in lieu of an actual answer to your problem, because frankly I don’t have an answer.
How do you get people to stop littering? That’s like asking, “How do you get people to stop talking during movies?” These are behaviors we collectively agree are bad, but they’re things people do ALL THE TIME anyway. It’s not like you can wave some guy over while he’s rolling barrels into the bushes and say, “Hey, man, that’s actually one of those things you shouldn’t do.” He knows that already, just like the guy yammering away in the theater knows he shouldn’t do THAT. They just don’t care.
The world is full of horrible people. But it’s also full of good ones. That’s hard to remember, but it’s true. If you need a reminder, Google “high school pitcher strikes out friend.” That won’t clean up Young Grade, but it may restore a tiny bit of your faith in humanity. And it’s the best I can offer right now.
Hope that helps.