The melting snow is revealing a winter’s worth of litter. This marks the official opening of the Litter Game season, a battle of gladiators representing the forces of good and evil, as played out in people going for walks and picking up litter versus the litterbugs. Walkers are champions the places they walk, and of civilization. Litterbugs are the places’ enemies, and are agents of the Forces of Darkness.
Anyone can play. Here are the rules.
Go out for a walk, and bring a bag for garbage. For every item you put into the bag, you get a point. Every item you see but pass by, the litterbug get a point. When your walk ends or when your bag is full, the game ends, and whoever has the most points wins.
On the other side, every time someone litters, they put a point in play, and thus give someone else the opportunity to get a point against them or for them. Of course, they also rot in Hell for all eternity, but that’s kind of a different thing than this game. The more people who see the item and don’t pick it up, the more points its litterbug gets.
So, if someone throws a beer bottle on someone else’s lawn, it’s in play. If you pick it up, you get a point. If you see it but pass it by, its litterbug gets a point (though they should expect to rot in Hell). If you pass it by tomorrow too, its litterbug is up two points. The only way for the litterbug not to rot in Hell is to pick up their item personally.
Some additional subtleties:
- If an item you retrieve is under water (e.g., in a stream), you get an extra point. But if you get your feet wet in the process of retrieving it, its litterbug gets a point. When one of these exciting rounds is over, be sure to shout an insult at the other side.
- You get an extra quarter point for each foot away from the trail you have to travel to get an item. Getting plastic bag from up a tree can be worth a lot of points!
- If DPW picks it up, nobody gets a point, but at least the item is out of play.
- If you catch a litterbug in the act and call them on it, you get 10 points, plus an extra point for each person who witnesses their embarrassment. But if you don’t say anything, you only lose 1 point. Totally worth it.
- Each litter item represents its manufacturer. So, if you pick up a Budweiser can, you get a point and the litterbug (who will rot in Hell in any case) loses a point. Meanwhile, the general forces of good that you champion get a point; both the litterbug and whatever conglomerate owns Budweiser lose a point.
Why single out Budweiser? In my two-mile walk today along Harvard conservation land, I picked up five Budweiser cans, in three flavor variations (none of which actually has any flavor). There were also two cans of Miller, two bottles of Arrow Peppermint Schnapps (both under water, for 2 extra points), a Marlboro cigarette butt, two McDonalds wrappers, a Dunkin’ Donuts cup, and a Market Basket bag (up a tree off the path, good for three points or so). Then, there were a bunch of unbranded things. Very full bag.
The math actually gets too complex to total it up, but on this walk, I know I came out way ahead.
And how did our various local independent manufacturers and vendors do? No points were taken from the General Store, Carlson’s Orchards, Still River Winery, or other independent locals, which means that they are way ahead too.
That’s typically how it works out.
The photo above is of a lawnmower Cricket and I found belly up in a stream, leaking oil into the wetlands. It wasn't satisfying to pull it out. Just sad.