This morning as I waited to cross the street and fulfill my Starbucks fix (I got a Venti Soy Flat White this morning and it was delicious), I saw two girls in school uniforms. The looked to be around 11 or 12 years old, and they were knee deep in conversation as they waited to ross the street just like me. One girl kept both hands on her backpack straps while she talked, and the other girl was eating a bag of Doritos.
**Sidebar** Ever since I was young and school-age, it always annoyed me when kids ate chips for breakfast. When I did my student-teaching and my "real" teaching it annoyed me even more. I know some kids have the type of home life where any kind of food that was available--be it chips, funions, donuts, etc.--was an acceptable form of breakfast. But I also know that a lot of kids--and this is something that was true of kids who were white, black, hispanic or Asian--either weren't taught good nutrition, or they simply ignored the good nutritional value of cereal, toast or oatmeal, in favor of nasty ass chips at 8am. I see adults doing this at my job and it is equally annoying...as are folks who smoke cigaretts at 8am. Why is it necessary to smoke a jack before breakfast? I don't get it.**sidebar off**
Once Dorito girl was finished with the bag, and her hands and face were full of chip residue, she looked left, then right, then dropped the bag on the street. Her classmate said, "Girl, you lazy", and then looked back at me very quickly. I had my sunglasses on, so they couldn't tell where I was looking, but please believe my eyes were glued to their illegal act. Once the "walk" signed flashed, Dorito girl kicked the Dorito bag in front of her classmate, and her classmate kicked the bag under a car that was waiting at the red light (the driver of the car was on his phone and oblivious to the entire operation). Then they both turned and looked at me while they crossed the street, and I just kept walking. Once they crossed the street, they went one way, I went the other, and that was the end of our interaction.
As I walked into Starbucks, I felt like I had failed every young person, by not speaking up and giving a 30-45 second long diatribe about the importance of respecting the streets of Washington D.C by not littering. I really wanted to say something, but the following scenarios played out in my mind:
1) What if I started lecturing the girls on their bullshit actions, and they got animated and/or upset? Anyone within earshot would certainly understand my plight and they would try to calm down the situation. But anyone out of earshot would see a grown ass man harassing two young girls, and they might think I was doing an Anthony Weiner impression. That wouldn't end well, any my well-intentioned point would get lost somewhere
2) This entire incident took place one block from my house, which means it is quite possible the parents, siblings or relatives could have been laying eyes on these girls. They could see me talking to the girls, come out of their house, and scream (or worse) on me for disciplining their children, and somewhere during their rant, they would surely utter the phrase, "you don't know them like that, those are my kids". Or they could make a mental note of the interaction they saw, and then confront me later that day during my walk home. Again, no matter how much of a public service I thought I would be performing, parents and family are overprotective--and given all that's going on in the world, I cannot blame them...however
My four-year old son knows that littering is bad and that it will not be tolerated. If we are walking down the street, and he sees any type of litter on the ground, he begins the following line of questioning:
Who left that there?
Why did they leave that there like that?
Who is going to pick it up?
Whoever left it there is a bad person?
I appreciate my son's vigilance, and the first two times I get hit with these questions it is entertaining and sweet, but by the time I heard this for the sixth or seventh time in a 15-minute span, I'm ready to mute his ass and strangle whoever left the trash there. So if you're in DC and you're thinking of littering, please don't, for my sake.
But on a much more serious note, it is rather sad that I cannot innocently talk to some kids about something they did wrong. I wouldn't have preached and I wouldn't have been mean, I would simply asked them why they did that, and if they minded picking up the Dorito bag. If they said no and did not kick the bag under a car, I would have gladly picked it up and thrown it out. If they had been receptive to my lesson, that would have been a win-win. And given that so many kids at impressionable ages are lacking in so many of the basic values they should learn at home (I'm not trying to sound like Bill Cosby here, I am just speaking strictly on what I observe during my walks/drives to my son's school), a helpful word from a harmless adult wouldn't be so bad every now and then.
I suppose I should have had the courage to power through the negative consequences in an effort to get my message across, but I opted to err on the side of caution this time. Maybe if they were boys, I'd have been bolder..I don't know.