Not quite instant karma

Michael Johansen
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The flashy car - blue, it was, or maybe green, or red; a sporty model like a Camaro, or perhaps a Mustang - was stopped on the side of the highway not far from the Goose River bridge.
The secluded curve was not a normal place to stop on a whim. Suspecting the driver might be experiencing some kind of mechanical breakdown, or maybe had run out of gas or was otherwise in need of help, I got ready to stop as well, pressing on the brakes as I passed.
In Labrador, that's not an unusual reaction to the sight of a stopped car. After a while, it becomes automatic. Anyone who spends any time driving the region's long and treacherous roads will suffer some kind of mishap which leaves him or her stranded on the shoulder or in the ditch.
The first car to happen by usually teaches that few people, if any, will simply pass without offering to help.
They stop because they've been stranded, too. If not, they've heard the stories and can easily imagine what it would be like to need help in the vast wilderness, hoping someone will stop to give it to them.
They know that Labrador is beautiful and awesome, but it can endanger the unwary.
Even the short paved route from North West River to Happy Valley-Goose Bay should not be taken for granted. Stopped cars are best not ignored.
This, however, was not that kind of situation. The long driver's-side door opened and a bright, heavy flurry of plastic and paper spewed out from inside the car, fluttering down onto the pavement. The door closed and the car was put into gear, its wheels spinning on dirt for a second before catching hold and sending it up the highway.
Already stopped, curiousity made me reverse the short distance back. The need to confirm a suspicion made me get out to examine the small squares that littered the road from the yellow median line to the westbound shoulder: several broken CD cases and lids and one CD.
Unfortunately, littering is hardly unusual anywhere in the world, not even in Labrador on remote snowmobile trails and especially not along that highway. All the carelessly discarded pop cans and assorted bits of garbage are bad enough, unsightly as they are, but they're also symptoms of a greater negligence towards the natural environment. The attitude is that Labrador's wilderness is so vast, a single oil bottle won't hurt it and perhaps neither will dozens and dozens more.
What do a few CD cases matter? Or a bunch of cut-down trees, a drowned river, or a poisoned lake?
The Big Land is considered just so big it can take any kind of punishment meted out, but it could all go the way of the once vast schools of cod off its shores. What was once taken for granted can soon disappear.
With all of this riding on a few CD covers, I had to ignore one title saying, "Don't pick it up." Another song two tracks further had a different message: "Change the world," it said. The covers, I decided, should be returned to the owner.
Since that shade of yellow was unmistakable and the Firebird or Corvette design simply unforgettable, it did not take long to happen upon the place it parked a lot. I considered honking the horn, tossing the covers out at the car and driving away but it seemed a little hypocritical, as well as illegal - although a lot of fun.
The other option, of knocking on the door to return the garbage and deliver a short lecture against littering, seemed somehow wrong.
Luckily for me, karma was on the case: the sports car had to meet its own reckoning. It seemed to take ill and it sat for some time on a flat tire before fading away and disappearing altogether.
In short, it lost its cool - a fate not to be wished on everyone involved in fouling the planet, since it involves us all.

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador

Geographic location: Labrador, Goose River, North West River Happy Valley Goose Bay

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Recent comments

  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Men are not punished for their sins , but by them . Elbert Hubbard

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Men are not punished for their sins , but by them . Elbert Hubbard