The Road Unspoiled

I didn’t plan on leaving the house on Friday the 13th. Not because I’m superstitious, but because I had already removed my bra for the evening. I was lounging on the couch at home, watching television and dressed in a comfortable T-shirt and fuzzy pajama bottoms, when my boyfriend Andrew texted me.

“How about a little trip out of town this weekend?” He asked. “We can go to Tyler!”

I am always up for a spontaneous weekend adventure, even if it means I have to put on a bra. After I changed into appropriate traveling clothes I grabbed a bag and started packing. We expected to leave in less than an hour, so I grabbed socks, underwear, T-shirts, shorts, and more socks and stuffed them in a backpack. I checked the refrigerator for anything that might spoil during the two days that we would be gone, and added that rubbish to the large, economy sized black trash bag that held the week’s accumulation.

Andrew arrived and packed, then we carried everything out to the car. A cooler with drinks, our bags, some reading material, and a paper sack with snacks all went in the back seat. I placed the big trash bag outside my car, on the bike carrier, so that we could drop it off at the dumpster on our way out of the apartment complex.

After some discussion, we stopped for a quick dinner of burgers and fries to let traffic die down and then, drowsy with carbohydrates, we headed out on the dark highway. I was adjusting the radio when Andrew glanced into the rear view mirror.

“Hey! Something just flew off the back of the car!”

I turned around in my seat just as a stained, shredded paper napkin flew past the window in the jet stream of air off our SUV. The weeks’ worth of garbage that I placed on the bike carrier, and intended to drop off at the dumpster, was now spewing forth down the highway.

Andrew and I dutifully recycle. We buy organic food and products in recyclable packaging so as to minimize our carbon footprint. I try to remember to bring reusable shopping bags when I buy groceries. I am a member of the Sierra Club. But this, this was the exact opposite of leave no trace.

“What was in that bag?” Andrew asked as he watched our trash whip off the back of the car and stream off into the night.

“Well, we shred everything with our name on it.” I replied, thinking of possible criminal prosecution for littering.

“Why didn’t anyone honk at us or flash their lights!”

I thought this was a decent try at shirking responsibility, but I imagine the travelers behind us were too busy swerving. After all, they had to avoid the Styrofoam containers, eggshells, and coffee grinds rushing toward them. I resolved to start a composting bin as soon as we returned home.

“At least we recycle the glass containers and metal cans.” I said. I tried to remember if last week had been the week that I threw away the bra with the broken underwire and the underpants with stretched out elastic.  I pictured my bra slapping across someone’s windshield, my faded underwear a flag flying on their antenna.

We drove another three or four miles before there was an exit. I was grateful I didn’t spot one of those Adopt a Highway signs. I couldn’t bear the thought of a troop of girl scouts picking up our soggy produce off the side of the road.

When we finally pulled over I got out of the car and walked to the back. I found the trash bag hanging from the bike rack like a large, black, deflated balloon. All that remained were some damp papers and bits of plastic, the whole thing was about the size of a head of cabbage. I stashed it on the back floorboard and when we reached the hotel in Tyler I tossed it into the trashcan at the entrance. It made a satisfying “thunk” sound going in, despite its light weight. We unloaded the car and checked into our room, our journey complete and, at least for the last part, the road unspoiled.

  • You can listen to me reading this story here:
Make America Green
This is the bumper sticker on my car!

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