Alaska seems to be having its third or fourth breakup of the winter right now. One can only hope this is the final one. I’m not sure I could stand another freeze/thaw/freeze cycle. If it’s not going to be an honest to god winter, then could it please just make up its mind to be spring?
I think breakup in Anchorage is, by anyone’s standard, pretty squalid and ugly. There are lakes your car needs pontoons to navigate right where the street was just yesterday. There are potholes swallowing HumVees and gently belching out the hubcaps – one of the few positive moments about these potholes now that I think about it.
You navigate the road with one eye on traffic and the other alert for pedestrians trying to walk amidst the muck and mire. You are constantly recalculating distance and speed in your mind as you try to figure out if you should speed up or slow down so as not to be going through the puddle at the same time the pedestrian will be walking by it. No matter how hard you work at it, at least once a day you inadvertently spray some poor soul with liquid so foul that even the ebola virus would disavow any relation.
Amidst all this ugliness, you hope that your fellow Anchorites have the common sense and decency to not add to the squalor if at all possible. While there are some who would argue that the sight of certain Alaskan cars in and of itself adds to the squalor, I would argue that part of the freedom we treasure in this state is the freedom to define beauty any way we chose. And if for some that is a multi-colored, omni-dented car, so be it.
But as I was driving down the street the other day, I saw something that caused me to be grateful that I don’t carry a weapon in my car. Because if I did, I would have been tempted to spray the offending vehicle with mace or hairspray or whatever came out the end of the can in my hand.
I was waiting for the light about four cars back from the intersection at Lake Otis and 36th. The third car ahead of me was a beat up old truck with what looked from a distance like a couple of young men in it. As I idly gazed at the surrounding scene while waiting for the light to change, I noticed the driver’s arm and hand emerge from his window. His hand held a large plastic coke bottle.
In total amazement, I watched him flip the bottle into the air over the top of the truck. If I want to be kind about the whole thing, I can give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he thought he was such a great shot that he could flip the bottle into the flatbed of his truck. But he didn’t. He flipped it right into the street.
From where I sat in traffic, it didn’t look as though he even glanced twice at the bottle he’d just so casually tossed. Other drivers around him ignored it too. I can understand that. Nowadays, you can’t be too careful. Say something wrong to the wrong driver and you are suddenly eating a mouthful of lead. No, too many armed drivers in Anchorage make confrontation an unwise choice.
The light changed and he drove off having apparently contributed nothing to society that day but trash. I looked around at the rapidly melting piles of snow and all the debris uncovered in their depths and wondered why that one young man made me so angry. After all, even a cursory glance at what is left in the wake of the receding snow banks makes it clear that a lot of people here don’t feel any compunction about making their trash our problem by throwing it onto our streets and sidewalks.
Once, just once before I die, I want to safely live out my fantasy of running up to someone who litters like that young man did and say, “What the hell is wrong with you? Do you not have the good sense god borne you with? Were you raised in a dump? Do you think you are somebody so special that you get to trash our public spaces with no consequences for your action? Well, this time there is a consequence, buddy boy. Get out of your beat up old truck, pick up your trash and keep it with you till you can safely discard it in the proper container. And while you’re at it, get a normal hair cut!”
But I’m guessing I’m not likely to ever be allowed to fulfill that fantasy. And Anchorage will continue to be the dirtiest city in Alaska every breakup. How sad.