My bike-riding addiction has me spending anywhere from 12-16 hours a week staring into the local side ditches. I know I should be concentrating on the traffic around me but that is nearly too scary to contemplate. Actually, with the astronomical increase in the popularity of road biking, drivers around here have become much more attuned to two-wheel traffic. The vast majority of those drivers are courteous and safe. But, as author Bill Bryson points out about bear attacks, it would take only one untoward encounter to really mess up your day.
So if the drivers aren’t too scary, what I see lying in the ditches is. Make that scary/inexplicable/disturbing/down-right strange. Almost every week, for instance, I see a pair of running shoes just plopped on the side of the road. This raises more questions than answers because, frankly, there are no answers. Did these shoes fall out of a car? Together? And land soles down? Side by side? Was the person wearing these running shoes running so fast that she just ran right out of them? Didn’t she notice? Also, the shoes are almost always blue. Someone steeped in conspiracy theories would take this for a sign. (“Rise up and revolt when you see the blue shoes in a ditch.”) Personally, I find life strange enough without attributing mystic qualities to what we used to call sneakers so you’ll have to rise up and revolt without me. Plus, “Blue Shoes in a Ditch” would be a great name for a rock band.
Bags of trash from assorted fast food restaurants are in great evidence in ditches. This one is easy to explain. The same people — the very same — who are ruining their waistlines, their life expectancy, and the actuary tables French fry by French fry are also destroying the environment. A killer two-fer if ever there was one.
Worse by a factor of, oh I don’t know 10 or 20, than the detritus of over-large hamburgers is the recent development of disposable diapers — used disposable diapers — being chucked onto the landscape. The first time I saw this I was somewhat disgusted. The second time I was pretty disgusted. The third time I was utterly disgusted. Now I find myself imagining the parenting skills of the person who thinks the side ditch is a septic system. (“Yes, Johnny, it certainly IS perfectly OK to toss your little sister’s soiled diaper into 1. The side ditch — at best or 2. Someone’s front lawn — at worst. Tossing a dirty diaper into someone’s yard will be a nice warm-up for where we come back and throw beer bottles at their mail box.”)
Michigan doesn’t have the following issue because Michigan has a 10-cent deposit on every can and bottle sold in the state. But Ohio doesn’t have the cash deposit and therefore has a deposit of another kind … namely cans and bottles being deposited into the side ditches. Within every mile or so there are one or two bottles strewn along the road side. The ratio runs about one soda can to ten beer cans. Those who insist upon mobile refreshment aren’t quite as motivated to rid themselves of evidence of a Diet Pepsi binge. But apparently many people who drink and drive are just sober enough to realize they need to chuck all the beer bottles out the window before those ominous flashing lights appear in the rearview mirror. Every once in a while there will be a 12-pack of Bud Light bottles lined up like AWOL soldiers. Sorry, guys. No points for neatness.
Given the amount of partying going on in cars and trucks the next item shouldn’t be so surprising but it is. It surprised me, anyway. Finding baby underwear in the ditch is one thing. But there is an astonishing number of adult undergarments finding their way into the tall grass by the side of the road. And, oh, the variety. Nearly any sort of color, style, gender-specific, and size you would care to think about is represented, if you can even bear to think about it at all.
Lots of beer, fast food, no underwear … it’s Animal House without the house.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.