When you’re at the beach, you’re supposed to relax, right? Unforch, my combination of obsessive-cleaning disorder and shpilkiss (restlessness in Yiddish, but my bubbie’s translation was always “ants in the pants”) would not let me rest this Shabbat.
What I wanted was to ride my Schwinn at low tide all the way down to the north end of the beach. Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers’ renourishment project this spring, there’s a LOTTA beach these days, and it’s a beautiful thing to be speeding across the sand, wind at your back, slaloming in betweencolorful umbrellas and squealing children digging up mole crabs.
Sadly, this charming obstacle course was also peppered with a ton of garbage by 4pm. And because I saw the video below a few weeks back, I could not bear the idea of all of it being swept into the ocean when the tide came back up. So yeah, that was me, Ms. OCD in a dirty cowboy hat and mismatched bikini, picking up the trash between 12th and 8th streets on Saturday.
In four blocks I filled my bike basket with the following inventory: 5 styrofoam cups, 16 straws, 3 Caprisun juice boxes, 5 Caprisun straw wrappers, 6 plastic bags that contained plastic water toys, 2 deflated plastic water toys, 7 ziploc/plastic grocery bags, 4 aluminum cans, a bunch of candy bar wrappers and a flip flop with a bottle opener on the bottom.
And even though they’d become part of the swirling pool of garbage, too, I left the abandoned plastic shovels and buckets because a) I ran out of room and b) I didn’t want to be the crazy lady who stole your kids’ sand toys while you took them to the potty.
And while anger and self-righteousness are two very popular reactions in my psyche, I didn’t mind all that much that I was picking up other people’s trash. I’m a mom and I know that sometimes the wrapper flies away when the 5 year-old is whining that she’d dying of thirst and the wind is blowing and you’d just like to drink one beer before the ice melts and you just can’t keep track of every gawdamn piece of plastic that passes through your life. Except for being totally grossed out when part of a beer sloshed onto the shirt in my basket, mostly I was just thinking about how hard it is to get people to change their behaviors, and whether that’s going to be enough to save the ocean and our way of life.
And I think people have changed their behaviors: Since I began coming to Tybee Island 12 years ago and the “Leave Only Your Footprints” campaign, I have to say there’s been tremendously less trash on the beach. My first visit at low tide, I almost puked at the snaking line of dirty diapers, cigarette butts and beer cans on the shore – “Redneck Riviera” was clearly an appropriate nomer for this place. These days, though, there’s recycling bins at every walkway and my bike basket full of garbage wasn’t even enough to fill a bag. Closer to the Pier, of course it gets uglier, and the Tybee police could certainly do a better job of reinforcing the beach litter disposal laws rather than speeding past on their ATVs.
Getting back to my one-woman, one-afternoon, four-block garbage sweept, believe me: I know the futilty of it. But when you see this, you remember that every little bit counts – especially if we all do a little bit: