Distracted by the events of my day and concerned with all I still had to do, I hurried down the sidewalk of a busy street toward my destination. I rarely paid attention to the passing cars that also seemed too absorbed with their destination to worry about the foot traffic. The weather had begun to warm, and the new spring flowers had emerged from their winter sanctuaries and lifted my thoughts from all I had to do. With my eyes concentrated on the uneven sidewalk below, I was taken by surprise at what happened next. Something flew through the air near my head and landed only a foot or two in front of me. Taken aback, I quickly looked at what was now rolling on the ground in front of me. As it curved off to the side I saw that it was an empty bottle of water.
Before I could wonder where the bottle had come from, I heard a loud screeching, and the old Chevy passing me on the road came to an abrupt stop. As looked over, I saw a large woman wearing a tank top in the driver’s seat and a man in an old t-shirt sitting next to her. The sides of the light blue car were beginning to rust and its trunk was sagging low to the ground. Sitting in the back seat were two girls who were searching for the projectile that had flown past my head. A chubby boy, about ten years old, had an arm hanging out of the car’s open window. I concluded that this must have been where the bottle came from.
Before I could become too upset at this child’s disrespect, the woman in the car began yelling. “Damn! You stupid idiot! You can’t do that!” This continued as I stood, unable to pull myself away, and watched the situation unfold. I could not believe the amount of profanity she shouted nor the names she called her child. She then ordered him out of the car to pick up the bottle. He did not respond, but instead sat in silent defiance. At this she uttered a few more choice words and began to open her own door and get the bottle herself. After the door had opened about a foot, she slammed it closed again. Then, just as quickly as the situation began, it ended. She hit the gas, and the old car sped off down the road.
Still in a state of shock, I looked around to see if anyone else had observed what had happened. The few people also walking along the sidewalk were apparently too far away to have noticed. The whole scene took only seconds, and I looked down at the bottle which had just slowed to a stop a few strides in front of me. Then, as I began to walk on towards my destination, the gravity of the situation descended upon me. That bottle reminded me of so many things I hated about society. The child had no concern for the world around him. He did not care how his actions affected other people. The bottle had missed my head by only a few feet. But, to me, he was not the most disturbing part. The woman in the car obviously had no concern for what the child was learning from her. I can’t blame children when adults fail to teach them. She was too lazy to insist that he mend the situation himself. She even knew that she should get the bottle herself. If not for the sake of the situation, she could at least do it to teach her kids. But that lesson was also too much work. Then I considered the man in the car who said nothing at all. Perhaps the boy looked up to him, and he could have changed the situation. Instead, he remained silent. As I walked on, my fists closed in rage at these people, their lack of thought, and their perverse actions.
I looked back at the empty bottle that I had now passed in my indignation. Instead of new spring flowers encouraging passersby like myself, this trash would contrast the landscape and curtail its splendor. The bottle lay there, unaltered by my righteous anger, and I walked on. Later, I wondered exactly why I had declined to act on the one thing that I could have changed. For in myself I found a flaw that disappointed me more than any I had seen: hypocrisy.
Stacey Sadowski is a sophomore from Copley, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and History.