But About Butts

May 29th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Catalyzed by comments on another Boston fire caused by thoughtless cigarette-butt disposal, there’s some dudgeon expressed at Universal Hub. As in what’s-wrong-with-the-people, the questions seem disingenuous or not too thoughty themselves.

Having been a smoker for years, albeit decades ago, I suggest it is another case of the preponderance of the small, as the I Ching has it. Like erosion, little forces combine into big effects.

smoldering cigarette ashGranted, I smoked in a time and place when cigarettes were about $2.50 a carton of 200 tubes of nicotine-delivery systems. The consequence of an individual butt seemed even less than here and now, with a single pack of 20 costing upwards of $8. Yet, the individual cigarette, even at 30¢ or 40¢, is just a relatively low-cost piece of waste.

Once you have received your drug and emotional solace, that’s just trash.

As my earlier post notes, I took likely irrational and mildly delusional pride in smoking non-filter Camels. I stripped them so that I did not leave rubble that someone eventually had to pick up. I also was never a clod who tossed pack wrapping to the street, new or completed.

Yet, driving my convertible Fiat Spyder around the Low Country, I felt the urge to flick a finished butt left or right. If I used the ashtray, I’d be the guy having to clean up after myself. It must have been cultural and familial. My grandfather smoked (really chewed and repeatedly relit) 5¢ cigars and my mother smoked Viceroy cigs. Both cleaned the automotive and inside ashtrays regularly and always put them into the trash. So, I did too.

Even today, I see smokers leaving a convenience store peeling off the pack wrapping and taking out the foil insert, only to let both fall to the sidewalk immediately. I suspect these are the same schmucks who, if they go to the gym and I smell smokers at the Y as they pass, who leave their locker doors open, toss their Y towels on the benches or floors, and don’t return dumbbells to the racks. Dumbbells, indeed, making others clean up after them, as their mommies may always have at home.

Sometimes I play the scold to littering smokers or weight slugs. It’s good I’m big. They usually begrudgingly do my bidding, but I have no fantasy that their behavior will change.

A single cig butt becomes an immediate inconvenience to a smoker upon the last puff. Away all pests!

Like the current fad for mindful eating, we could use some mindful smoking. Somehow that doesn’t seem to carry the cache of quasi-religious communion with food as process and product.

Yet most Saturdays I think of the butt flingers as I go to Haymarket. On Union Street, the bar underlings invariably are sweeping, spraying or hand picking the hundreds upon hundreds (think each 100 cigarettes as starting at $35) out of the quaint and cutesy red bricks on that stretch of the Freedom Trail.

The battle for freedom to smoke cigarettes whenever and wherever has long been lost. After all, that’s how so many butts end up on those bricks. We can’t reasonably expect mindfulness and consideration from folk with several beers or Margaritas in them. Certainly, the commonweal or respect for restaurant service personnel aren’t their driving forces.

What’s a single butt? The answer at its extreme may be a fire-gutted building or pier. More likely, it’s just another wee expression of self-centered behavior.


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