So, back to the point. I smoke. I know some folks who also smoke, or smoke part-time the same way I do. I also know lots of people who dislike or actively hate smokers because they hate the smoke or the smell of smoke that usually comes with them. Fair enough and I go out of my way to give them their space. So long as they don't hassle me I have no problem with their standpoint. However, I know a very few folks who hate smokers because so many of them are goddamn litterbugs (I personally am surprised at how few fall into this class compared to people who just don't care for the smoke). You know how there's always fifteen or twenty cigarette butts laying on the ground outside any given office door? Ever notice how they're always thrown on the ground even if the building management has been polite enough to set out an ash can or a "Cease Fire" bucket? Yeah, those smokers. I hate them too, honestly. I don't throw my cigarette butts out the window of the Expedition if I'm driving and I don't just drop them on the ground outside a building when a receptacle is available (I roll the cherry out to make certain I do not set the trash bin aflame). I try to be courteous to non-smokers around me and, by extension, I try to be courteous to the environment people live and work in. I don't think that a vast prairie of flattened, stepped-upon cigarette filters is either of those things. It's particularly maddening to me because I don't see any reason for it. If there's an ash can and you're standing three feet away from it you can damn well toss your filter into there when you're done. Yet for whatever reason the culture in this country says it's okay to be lazy and throw the filter on the ground, sooner or later it'll get cleaned up or blown/washed away by some force or another. That force might be the building's janitorial staff, or a local eco-club, or just a heavy rain. If I had to put it into words I would say the attitude is one of Hey, whatever! I can't be bothered.
So now that I've explained my position on these things, let's rewind to Thursday of this week.
I had parked in the East lot of the office because I find the tall trees that line the parking lot provide better shade and help keep the Expedition from being a four hundred degree oven when I open the door in the late afternoon. I also enjoy the extra distance that I must walk as I've not been getting nearly enough exercise lately. On my way along the sidewalk I fell in behind a businessman who had parked closer to the building. He was in his late 20s or so and was smoking a cigarette while walking and talking on his cell phone. No big deal. Until he gets to the edge of the sidewalk and has to cross the circular drive to the stairs leading up to the building's doors. He throws his half-smoked, still-lit cigarette down.
The landscaping company the building uses tends to all the trees, shrubs and grass areas that line the drive and parking lots. They put mulch down each spring to help defend these unfortunate trees and shrubs against the harsh realities of the poorly engineered environment into which they have been transplanted -- little to no irrigation in the warm months, course after course of road salt during the winter, etc. Naturally it is into this mulch that the still-smoking cherry of the half-finished cigarette is tossed.
I'm frankly astonished. A Cease Fire can is clearly visible at the end of the sidewalk and this guy threw his cigarette down anyway. On the mulch. Mulch that is made of wood chips. Dry wood chips. While the cigarette is still lit. How retarded can one man be? I wonder to myself. I quicken my step and fall in right behind him. I wait until he gets off his cell phone and pushes the building's revolving door. As soon as I'm through the door and into the lobby I walk up beside him and turn my head to gaze at him over the rims of my sunglasses. "Not to put a fine point on it, but you're aware that mulch... burns, right? It's made of wood and when it's dry like today...?" I ask. He startles a little before he answers, "Uh, no, I didn't! I'm sorry. I'll be more careful next time, sir." I'm a little surprised at the use of "sir" but I ignore it because I want to hammer home the message. "Cool," I tell him. "I appreciate it. Because we hold a lot of space out in the Annex building in the parking lot." I jerk my thumb towards the metal shed in the parking lot, its flat grey paint looking as dull and industrial as ever. "Every summer or so we have to evacuate it at least once because our smokers throw their cigarette butts into the mulch and light that shit on fire. I'm getting really tired of it." He nods like a bobblehead doll, reassures me again that he'll be more careful next time and darts to the mid-rise elevator bank. I get into my own elevator on the low-rise bank and ride up. I step onto my floor still shaking my head and musing over his use of "Sir," as well as the simple fact that he didn't know dry mulch is combustible.
So there you have it. Just because they're of legal age or above to purchase the smokes doesn't mean they're smart enough to put basic concepts like "dry wood + lit cigarette = possible burnination" together.
If you don't look ahead nobody will