I was waiting for my family to finish shopping in a store when two teen girls and their father came out of a fast food restaurant. They piled into a truck and right before they drove away, right in front of me, a girl put down a drink container on the ground in the parking lot. She made eye contact with me and her and her friend started giggling like crazy. I looked at them for a bit, realizing they weren't going to stop and pick it up to throw it away... I'm always surprised at this sort of behavior.
Last time this sort of thing happened, my family and i were at a river kayaking and a family took a dirty diaper and threw it in the river near me. I was on a kayak so I paddled after it, retrieved the diaper, paddled back to them and said, "You dropped something." The woman said, "Thank you" and put the diaper in a trash bag they had right there.
Another time was in Santa Cruz on the beach... a school had just performed a beach clean up and there were cute little kids... little ones running around all morning collecting trash. Then a group came in and had a huge picnic / party on the beach. When they were finished they actually got up and left... while leaving bottles and fast food wrappers all over the place. The group I was playing volleyball with got to talking about it... we decided that since that group had been drinking for a few hours, we wouldn't approach them on it... and there was actually too much trash and too little time for us to pick it all up... that was an existentially uncomfortable/discouraging event for me... we actually let the trash lie.
Another time, I was walking behind a group of teens in downtown Santa Cruz and one teen set down her milk shake container and her friend asked her about it and she said something like, "I have to give the retards something to pick up." Yes... I was floored... and I was right behind them... so I bent down and picked up the milk shake and no I didn't throw it at her or shove it back into her hands... which is what I wanted to do (yes, I also have visions of vindication or retaliation but I don't act on them! I have to find ways that improve the situation if at all possible.). I took what must have been 3 steps and put it in a trash can... those girls did see me do that... not sure what effect it had on them, but the cup was where it needed to be and that felt a little bit better.
So see... I have some baggage in this area, so that when it happens, I'm a bit re-stimulated, and I find my mind flooding with the negative experiences from the past as well as the current judgments/evaluations I'm making in the moment.
This time... I was envisioning lots of different options, most of which weren't that great of plans... probably would have really escalated the situation and most likely wouldn't have helped at all... so I just stared as they drove away. Then I'm left standing there next to some trash... so I walked over and picked up the cup and looked around for a trash can. There were several choices in 3 different directions so I walked 50' and threw away this gal's trash. I found it a bit absurd that I was left picking up after this gal and my mind started taking off with infuriating thoughts... so I had to get a handle on it quickly and control what I thought about so I wouldn't get worked up into a terrible emotional state. I had some time before my family came out of the store so I walked around a bit and took some deep breaths and thought that at least the trash was disposed of...
I'm not going to lie to you--this still bothers me... it is about reconciling with the fact that I can't control what others do... and that we all have different standards... different ways of living... different things we tolerate... different expectations of others and life experience in general.
It does help to focus on the fact that the only person I have any control over at all is me... I can choose to throw away trash. I can recycle. I can develop educational programs (Simply Your Best) to help each of us build awareness and decide upon the best ways of living for us--which of course will not be the same for everyone. I can lead by example. I can acknowledge that others have different priorities and ways of meeting those priorities than I do.
I don't like these types of situations... thank goodness they don't happen often. I guess I can work to be graceful when they do occur... and to focus on want I can control.