Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Guest Slapper of the Month X

I hesitated before asking GreatSheElephant to be my Guest because she does quite a lot of whingeing on her own blog, entitled, er, The Great She Elephant, and I thought it might be boring for her to come and kvetch on mine, but she said that being grumpy was one of her greatest pleasures in life - that and speed-dating (at least I think that's what she said; I may be wrong). Apart from living in overcrowded London and being freelance and loving pussycats, what she and I have in common is that we feel murderous on a regular basis. I was nodding furiously when I read her Slap. I bet you will too. Thanks, Jane!

Dirty pig

I’m at Leicester Square tube station, waiting for a female friend, when I see him. He has just passed through the Piccadilly Line barriers and he seems to be walking straight towards me. He’s handsome in a debonair, terribly English sort of way. No, let’s make that gorgeous. I can’t stop staring. Our eyes lock. Casually he reaches into a pocket as he nears me, brings out a piece of paper…

And as he walks past, he screws it up and throws it on the floor. “Pig,” I mutter.

In the novels of Carl Hiaasen baroquely awful things happen to people who litter, mostly at the hands of the deranged, bath cap wearing, heroic ex governor of Florida. In fact, for Hiaasen, littering is a signifier of a weak or often downright bad moral character and I can’t help feeling that he’s right.

So, to the business man on the Tube sitting opposite me who takes an orange from his briefcase, peels it, eats it and carefully leaves the peel on the seat next to him, I say, “Death by alligator is what you deserve.” If the orange complete is clean enough to put in his briefcase, why isn’t the peel?

Here, I must make a disclosure. I leave newspapers on trains when I’ve finished reading them. And I love to find newspapers on trains that other people have left for me to read. A copy of Vogue or Harpers would be nice occasionally too, maybe a good book. But not orange peel, water bottles, juice cartons, burger wrappers, salad containers and stinking, half eaten packets of chips, still smeared with ketchup.

Littering shows a complete disregard for others, a lack of consideration for others who share your environment. Litter isn’t just physical rubbish – it can be noise leaking from headphones, overly loud (and never interesting) conversations, the smell emanating from unwashed, undeodorised armpits during rush hour.

London may be one of the largest cities in the world but at the same time, it’s a small, crowded place and we all have to live here. Don’t take up more than your fair share of space and pick up after yourself.

Or my alligator will get you.


  1. I have to admit that when my husband and I were in London, at that very same tube station, we were shocked to see the litter. America has lots and lots of litter. But we thought that the English were a better lot than we are. But I did also notice that you don't have trash cans in the tube(and I do understand why). We have trash cans everywhere, and still people litter.

    Good slap.

  2. Oh, I feel like standing up and cheering - I'm in complete sympathy with you!

    Carl Hiassen is right - littering is a sign of poor upbringing, dangerous narcissism and lack of moral fiber. Either that, or litterers have their heads completely up their respective *sses. I am constantly amazed and disgusted at the number of my clients (in court-ordered substance abuse treatment) who think nothing of leaving wrappers, drink bottles, cigarette butts, etc., on my doorstep - and even on the floor and chairs of the room where our groups meet. From time to time they are treated to Auntie Debra's Lecture on Personal Responsibility, which includes Picking Up After Oneself. Why they didn't learn this when they were four years old should be the focus of an expensive government study, rather than wasting our money on crime- and drug abuse prevention.

  3. Can you hear me slapping, all the way from Eastern Canada?

    My favorite story about littering, and worse, came from John Banville's novel The Untouchable, which is based on Anthony Blunt, one of the infamous Cambridge Spies. The Blunt character is astonished to witness people spitting on the street, just as a matter of course. He describes the "bottomless vulgarity" of these individuals, more like things than humans, who are too lazy to swallow their own saliva. He wonders what is left for humanity. I still remember that passage, six years since i read the book!
    Carole (madamex on MUA)

  4. Timely slap.

    I think poor hygiene and the pollution consequences is the greatest of crimes.

    Good idea about the book swap option. That'd make the world a friendlier place!

  5. TLP, there may not be trash cans in the Tube but there are plenty at street level, a mere 30 seconds' walk from each station.

    I actually like the Parisian solution which is open cardboard boxes for trash (so you can see what's left) at stations and clear trash bags outside (so you can see what's left). Paris has just as much reason to worry about bombs as we do but they deal with it far more sensibly.

    Madamex, that reminds me - just this afternoon, I noticed a quite lovely looking girl waiting at a bus stop. I was just admiring her rather gorgeous boots, when she hawked and spat a huge gob of saliva right next to one of them. Revolting - as you say, why are people too lazy to swallow?

  6. get this - i was in a resturant the other day - smith's of smithfields, as it goes - and this woman at another table couldn't get the ketchup to come out of the glass bottle fast enough. so she took her knife, sucked it clean, then poked it into the neck of the bottle and scooped the ketchup out with it. is that not utterly disgusting? and on soooo many levels? i couldn't take my horrified eyes off her after that. grrrr. wish now i'd informed the waitress on the way out, bit i was too much of a wuss. grrrrrr

  7. Yes! Yes! YEEEEEESSSS!!! I abhor litterbugs! Always have!

    Auntie Debra - I was known in high school and college for lecturing my idjit friends for littering. And (wouldn't you know) the ones I had to do this with are no longer my friends. All for other "main" reasons, but the character flaws that lead to one thinking littering is ok were part and parcel of the issues with them.

    As for leaving reading material for others, check out! Great site and idea.

    Closed-fist "slap" to litterbugs.

  8. London is especially bad for this, I think. I always get a bit of a shock when I get on my first train in England having flown in from Germany.

    But, yes, books and papers are good. I sneakily left - because it weighed 400kg - a copy of Daniel Deronda in a beach-hut in Thailand. I hope that some random Thai or other tourist instantly fell in love with a tale of 19th century English jewry.

  9. How insightful to put loud boring (and I would add pretentious) conversations in the category of litter. I hate those. And I hate litterers too... hear hear!

  10. My parents both litter, I don't. It's a pet peeve from when I was a child. So, where did I get it from ? I think it's lazy and I'll walk a Long time until I find a trash can if I have to.

    I used to be totally grossed out by people spitting on the street. How could they do such an impossibly selfish and disgusting thing?! How Dare They!!!

    Then once, I found myself with a very bad cold, lots of phlegm in my throat, no useable tissues Anywhere and a need to get rid of it. Sorry to be graphic, but I would have choked on it otherwise. That's how Some people end up spitting on the street. I understand your point, but if I would slap anyone, it would be Me, for being so self-righeous about it in the first place. Sometimes it is unavoidable.

  11. Spitting in the street: try China! Enough to turn your stomach at any time of the day!
    Do read the piece about spittoon on
    I like this :A mass produced sign seen in many saloons read:
    If you expect to rate as a gentleman
    Do not expectorate on the floor

    Perhaps, we should expand this to
    Do not drop litter
    Do not play loud music in public, etc..

    Additions to the above are welcome…

    As for body odour, I wonder what stops us saying to the offending party: “Ever heard of soap and water?'' or quite simply “You smell awful!”


  12. I agree with everything but the noise and smells. They biodegrade in the blink of an eye. An orange peel, on the other hand...

  13. I don't know - to be honest a 40 minute tube ride with someone with bad BO is actually far worse than some orange peel...

    We should all go back to carrying pomanders.

  14. There's nothing to add, is there? I agree with everything that's been said.

    Oh, maybe one thing: I think spitting in the street is a statement. I find it aggressive. If the person really needs to get rid of phlegm, they can spit into a tissue.

  15. This reminds of days out on the Gower peninsular in South Wales,along this stretch of glorious coastline there is quite a difference between high tide and low tide the water goes out roughly 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile at low tide.
    One day many years back we arrived at Caswell Bay after high water along with thousands of others, as the day went on the tide went right out and back again but as the tide swept back up this beautiful bay it was proceeded by a long line of discarded plastic bags used soft drink bottles empty sandwich wraps and sundry other items.How the ignorant cretins who leave this mess behind turning something of beauty into an eyesore as well as the ecological issues that it could ensue can do this is beyond me.It practically brings me to tears that a lot of these people have no shame or regret about the ugliness their idleness left to wash up with the incoming tide.

  16. "the ugliness their idleness left to wash up with the incoming tide."

    So nicely phrased!
    I agree with you entirely. It does make one weep to see our planet soiled or destroyed either by cretins or by industry.

  17. Okay, raise your hands. How many women would rather choke, literally, then spit in the street if you have used up all your tissues and there are No tissues available Anywhere?

  18. anonymous

    I personally have never hawked up anything so large or so foul that I could not swallow it, with or without a grimace. I imagine that that is true for most people even if they do choose to spit.

  19. To greatsheelephant:

    Then you have been very lucky and I hope that you always are. I once had a cold literally So bad that it required the dreaded spitting on the street once. Me, who thought that anyone who would do that was a gross pig.

    Incidentally I was on the way to the Ear Nose and Throat Hospital and I still didn't want to commit this "disgusting act"

    Fortunately I had a friend with me who unlike me, had a clear head and was not trying to be Princess of all that is Proper, Good, Right, and graceful. She looked at me as though I was a total dolt and said "For God sake, get it out. Would you feel better if you choked"? Thank you and did I really need someone to give me Permission?

    You have made some excellent points, they make sense, but there Are exceptions to every rule. I judge less these day, on this and other things. I find that karma gives me a swift well-deserved kick in the rear if I don't.


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