They wore neon yellow vests and dull grey work gloves and carried orange trash bags as they trudged along the roadside on an unusually hot mid-September afternoon in northwestern Illinois on Thursday. They were looking for the things people toss idly from cars on muggy summer nights or drop unwittingly on brisk walks on cool spring mornings -- plastic water bottles, Styrofoam coffee cups, smashed up cardboard. They found this and other things, such as a yellowed scrap of the paid obituaries in a newspaper. And they found scores of empty liquor bottles and cans, more than you might expect on a portion of a 1.5-mile patch of road laden with trees and grass, not businesses. And the cigarette butts. Where do all those filters go after the tobacco burns out and the smoke dissipates? These are the sort of things you start to ponder as you try a clean a roadside as The Plexus Groupe did on Thursday. We adopted a highway in Lake County, Illinois, and now, it was time to clean it.
In the end, Plexus gathered eight bags of garbage, one per volunteer. All those little chunks of plastic and aluminum and paper start to add up. We also found what appeared to be a steering wheel, as well as four full bottles of beer, though the wheel and the beer weren't found right next to each other, thank goodness.
Anyways, there is more work left to be done on that highway, plenty of it. And in time, our Philanthropy Committee will put another sign-up sheet in the kitchen, and the volunteers will don clothes they like enough to wear in front of their co-workers but dislike enough to sport when lugging around a bag of garbage.
And we'll try, try again to get all of those cigarette butts, wondering all the while where in the heck they are all coming from. We will get our hands dirty, and we will sweat, but we will feel we made our little stretch of highway a little better, and we'll have jokes and stories to last for days. Just how did that steering wheel make it onto the road side?
Well, now it's in a garbage bag, off to a landfill, we suppose. The Plexus Groupe is not standing for that on our little stretch of highway.
And cool it with the smokes, too, will you?