Last Saturday was Green Up Day. Like hundreds of other people in Addison County, I set off down the road clutching a lime-green plastic garbage bag — the international symbol for “Look at me, I’m a Good Person.”
As I trudged along picking up O.P.T. (Other People’s Trash), drivers honked and gave me the thumbs up, and passing bikers and joggers yelled out thank yous. I may as well have been wearing a cape.
This caught me by surprise. Handling O.P.T. is one of the least glamorous ways I can think of to spend a morning — and I say that as a person who would otherwise be sitting at home in sweats, drinking coffee and watching YouTube. But those lime-green trash bags seem to impress people.
I’m lucky my new fans didn’t stop to talk or I might have had to tell them I’m kind of a Green Up fraud.
Oh, I was doing the work. I spent a couple of hours plucking cigarette butts out of the dirt and gingerly tossing dripping bottles and Subway wrappers into my bag. Good for me.
But — confession time — I’ve lived in Vermont since 1986, and Saturday marked only the second time I’ve participated in Green Up Day, the last time being about a decade ago. It’s shameful.
I don’t know why I haven’t done Green Up more often. I guess I prefer good deeds that (a) don’t take up a lot of time and (b) aren’t gross. Call me a princess, but I find it more palatable to buy a 50/50 raffle ticket, for instance, than to engage in any activity that, like Green Up, requires me to wear latex gloves.
Plus, I’m usually busy on the first weekend in May. For a long time, for example, we had Little League games on Saturdays.
“I wish I could do Green Up,” I’d say, with a sigh. “But I have to be here, for the kids.”
That excuse worked for years, until a certain perky parent overhead me.
“We have the same problem,” she said. “So we got our bags last week and did our Green Up yesterday afternoon.”
But even a cheerful smackdown by an annoyingly civic-minded individual wasn’t enough to make me jump on the Green Up bandwagon (or dump truck, if you prefer). May is — in normal, sunny years — prime gardening time, and I’ve been reluctant to give up a valuable Saturday morning in the garden for the dubious thrill of pulling wet plastic shopping bags out of the leaf mold on the side of the road.
But this year, I found myself wanting to make my corner of the world a little prettier. And since the litterbug who frequents my road was no doubt too busy to come back and pick up after himself, I figured I’d help him out. (I know he’s a guy because the other time I did Green Up I found a pair of his pants.)
If his trash is any indication, my litterbug has made a few lifestyle changes over the years. He’s cut back slightly on his smoking; however, he’s chewing more Skoal. His diet has improved a bit: He’s switched almost exclusively from beer to white wine and he discarded more banana peels than McDonald’s wrappers this time around.
I found the tattered remnants of an old sun visor, indicating that he may have taken up golf. If so, he must be quite successful; very few people can afford both greens fees and cigarettes.
Overall, he’s generating less post-consumer waste these days, so my stretch of road wasn’t nearly as garbage-strewn as before. I had it easy.
But the people who drove by — presumably rushing off to Little League, wracked with Green Up guilt — didn’t know that I filled less than three bags, or that my all-time Green Up participation rate over 28 years was a lousy 7 percent. They got one look at the lime-green bag and suddenly I was a hero.
I admit I got a little carried away with the adulation. I started off diffident, but by mid-morning I was bowing and mouthing an exaggerated “You’re welcome” to passing drivers, even — especially — to the ones who pretended not to notice me.
Doing Green Up once every 14 years or so, however, does not make me a good person. I know that. My goal on Saturday was simply to beautify the road I walk on; the props I got were merely a welcome bonus.
But later, I found I missed the attention. So on Monday I switched out my everyday black leather pocketbook for a lime-green garbage bag.
You wouldn’t believe how many people are giving me a second look now.