Several times a week, I trundle around Quidi Vidi Lake, up past the supermarket and out along Forest Road before zig-zagging home again, all in an effort to not surrender on fitness entirely.
All in all, the distance is about
6.2 kilometres. Once, when I was younger, it would have gotten easier week by week. So far, it hasn’t.
But that’s not the only thing that happens week by week. As the days pass, you get to see the small changes from winter to spring — the receding (now disappearing) snow drifts, the ice blackening and then suddenly vanishing, the insanely hopeful crocuses kicking up through the matted yellow grass and dead leaves, just waiting for the next snowfall to stomp them back down again.
This year, it’s been a pretty even melt: the dirt-blackened snowdrifts have edged away, revealing everything from a small and crushed fire extinguisher to exactly one-half of a manhole cover, flicked well back off the road and into the brush, perhaps by a snowplow blade.
Oh, that and 34 Tim Hortons coffee cups. That’s right: 34. And I probably missed plenty, because the counting was secondary to the exercising.
Some things to think about? I didn’t count the doubled-up cups as two, either, and there were several of those. As well, part of that route includes going by the new Trail of the Caribou Memorial Park, an area that, before I started counting cups, was carefully cleaned up by city workers. Not a speck of garbage for 750 metres or so. The route also includes the corner lot by the Sheraton Hotel: once again, an area that’s kept pretty clean. So, out of that 6.2 km, you can probably discount one kilometre as not carrying the loading of your normal dumping zone.
Still, average the whole thing out, and it’s some five and a half cups per kilometre — and this is residential streets, not even the heavily-travelled, high-trash areas like the Outer Ring Road or the main thoroughfares.
In 2007, in its annual report, the City of St. John’s outlined that it had some 1,351 kilometres of city streets within its jurisdiction. (Probably more now.) Do the rough math, and you’d end up with close to 7,400 Tim Hortons cups — there’s probably more miles of roads now, and more discarded cups, too.
And it’s not just Tim Hortons cups that we seem to gleefully fling around. There’s a smattering of trash from other chains, from McDonald’s and A&W, for example.
There’s also my personal favourite: dog feces, helpfully packaged in tightly-tied, tossed plastic bags. What exactly do dog owners think is going to happen to that particular offering?
It’s a science fair project just waiting to be taken on by some enterprising student.
If it were simply left alone to decompose, it would still be a mess — but it would be gone far faster. There are usually only a few samples of gift-wrapped dung around the lake; you can find higher concentrations if you know where to look. Up in Poopy Park, for example, you sometimes see them hanging in the trees like strange and unpalatable Easter decorations.
But when it comes to sheer numbers, the vast majority of the identifiable litter seems to be Tim’s cups.
And Tim Hortons didn’t put them there.
We did. Or, at least, some of us did. It must take a special disdain for this place to just roll the window down and fling it out, rather than at least bringing your empty cup with you in the cupholder to wherever you’re going.
Must be a special feeling to think that your own personal convenience is more important than anything else. The same kind of attitude that would pour waste engine oil or paint down a storm drain, or flick your old couch off the back of a pickup truck in the woods because you can’t be bothered to actually get rid of it properly.
A special gift, from that special segment of society that just couldn’t care less.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.