car trash symphony: the hole in the jughandle


I noticed something driving today. In Nu Joizey, we have a phenomenon known as the Jersey left, which means you have to exit right and go around a jughandle to go left. It tends to mess up out-of-staters, who spend much of their time getting honked at, cursed, and sometimes rear-
ended by irate Jersey Boys like myself who don’t like them clogging up the left lane trying to turn left, blinded by the median walls.

But the point is, we spend a lot of time of our lives going around jughandles not thinking about it, and especially not glancing at the space within the jughandle. I broke tradition and actually looked today. What I saw astounded me. I expected to see a controlled wild of thickets and tall grass hunkered down for winter, but instead what I saw was… trash. Nothing but trash. Mostly plastic bags full of candy wrappers and coffee cups and coke bottles and old directions and even bundles of wet newspapers that people hurl out of their cars. I myself have contributed to the Garden State’s roadside landfill:  Once when I was heading cross country, I was just entering the interstate and flung a half-eaten (wrapped) bagel out of the car into the tall brush next to the entrance ramp. I thought I had gotten away with it, and hit the accelerator, excited to drive the 3,000 miles to Seattle. But before I could say Nirvana, a hippy couple pulled up alongside me and gave me a stern rebuking for my environmental malfeasance. I even argued with them, window down, 69 mph, saying that bagels were biodegradable but they too saw the wax paper.

With that confession out of the way, I can add this: it sure amazes me what we do when we think there is no one watching.

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About Pete Mladineo


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