"Jesus Christ," I mutter. "Would you look at this jackass?"
Then he tosses out a big coffee can, which most likely has Mini Cooper tire-chewing capabilities, so I brake and swerve. The truck behind me lurches. I swear with more intent.
"MoOOoom," my kid admonishes.
Dear Youth of America: This is a rare site nowadays but people used to chuck garbage out of their cars all the time. The litter you see around roads and highways isn't one tenth what it was back in the 60s and 70s. The turn around was due largely by the Keep America Beautiful campaign. Behold the iconic crying Indian:
And it wasn't just garbage on the street.
There were parts of Cleveland that always smelled bad back then, particularly those surrounding the steel mills. Out-of-towners would wrinkle their nose when you got to the Pershing exit on I-77 SB and say, "What's that smell?"
By the time I was a shiny-faced field engineer with BP in the late 80's, things had gotten better, but the old timers used to like to talk about, well, the old times. They had names like Denny and Lou and Harry.
"Back in the day, we didn't have to worry about all your regulations," Lou would say. "We didn't have any regulations." Then he'd lean back in his chair, put his feet on his desk and take a long drag from his Pall Mall. "Back then the answer was smokestacks. You just pushed the smoke way up high where it didn't bother anyone. Back then, kid," he'd say, then purse his lips into a perfect O and blow a plume of smoke straight up by way of demonstration, "dilution was the solution to pollution."
Guys like Denny and Lou and Harry loved that line.
Then there was the Cuyahoga River.
In the late 60's and early 70's, the Cuyahoga was simply terrifying. This was no silly group of hippies protesting a pipe trickling some dubious liquid into the river. Everybody knew the Cuyahoga was filthy and dangerous. My nightmares were filled with images of falling into the thick black water and being surrounded by the industrial bridge pilings, the massive ore boats and tugs. I still occasionally dream about the murky waters of the Cuyahoga.
Think I'm exaggerating?
That picture of the Cuyahoga was taken in the 60's. You have to see it to believe it. I wanted to embed it here, but the Plain Dealer denied my permission request.
So then, Youth of America, be wary of ham-handed righties telling you how deregulation is a good thing and how the (admittedly sometimes exasperating) EPA needs to be defunded. No, I can't say pollution would return to what it was 50 years ago, but I'd hate to find out what might happen to a river that I've literally watched come back to life over the past 40 years.