Thursday, 12 March 2009
Dumps and Chumps: A Rant
Yesterday we worked our butts off spring-cleaning our little living room. I will not bore you with the appalling details of that hours-long, exhausting ordeal, as it was a mess we created ourselves. We made the mess, we clean it up.
Today, however, we went "ditch-pigging," our bi-annual cleanup of two pilgrim picnic spots on the Camino between Carrión de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza. We picked up things left by other people, as we´ve done for a couple of years now.
It should not have been so hard.
It´s been a good four months since we drove down that rocky road, four months of winter. There aren´t many pilgrims out there in winter, so we did not expect too much work.
What we found was nothing short of amazing. Not just trash. Not even gross. We are talking filth here. Layer after layer. Shameless. It went right down past stupid to philosophical, people. Philosophical. And that, my friends, is as low as it goes.
Not that Plato and Aristotle and John Stuart Mill are lowlifes. No. It had to be this kind of inexplicably lowdown, lowlife sewage that made them take up philosophy in the first place – the search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless chaos.
The trash. It was, well... so MUCH. Remove a layer of yogurt cartons and water bottles and lunchmeat trays, and there underneath is another LAYER of grocery bags, juice boxes, and wine bottles. The more we cleaned, the dirtier it was. It defied reason. It went beyond Good and Evil. It wore on the soul, even.
These are two little stops along a pilgrim trail. The people walking along here are, supposedly, in search of a spiritual truth. They are (one would suppose) thoughtful, decent, lean, strong, upright folk. They pay their way. They consider what they put into their bodies, judging from the number of Carbohydrate-balanced Electrolytic Protein Supplement containers they leave on the ground as they pass. They carry what they need on their backs. The waste they produce, they dispose of in a responsible manner.
So you would think. Until you pulled up here, where the Camino intersects with the Real Cañada Leonese. Here, for meters leading up to the single concrete picnic table, are weeds and ditches woven with every kind of pilgrim trash: Water bottles, yogurt cartons, sanitary pads, cigarette packets, napkins, toilet tissue, spoons, knives, forks, and food containers of every kind. Pilgrims carried these things here on their backs. They stopped for a few moments to rest. And then, pilgrims left these things here, scattered across the fields and waterways.
We, Rebekah Scott and Paddy O´Gara, are the chumps who come and clean up after the assholes. (Yes, I am calling them nasty names. These are very nasty, evil people.)
After an hour of work Paddy gets disgusted. He swears at all these pilgrim SOBs and parks himself in the car and quits cleaning up after the %¢@s, after whatever municipality ought to be doing this, after the morons who put the overturned trash bin here in the first place, and then all-but abandoned it. “Enough!” he says. “The more you clean up, the more the lowlifes toss down to cover it. There´s no hope for it. No end to it!”
I keep going, just because it´ll be a while before I come back. And after a few minutes Paddy calms down and comes back and starts chucking trash into the bin again. I am glad, but I say nothing. Paddy has more dignity than I do. I can deal with that. In picking up after them, I am as shameless as the assholes who trashed this lovely place.
Nobody wants this job. Nobody does it. Except lowdown volunteers like us. It´s lowdown work, so lowdown it circles right back to righteous. It´s noble, I tell Paddy.
It´s crap, he says. They need to get the chain gang from the prison out here. This is a penance.
And if we don´t do it, who will? I ask. That´s what “noble” is, no? Standing up to the lowest of the lowdown when no one else can be bothered?
We both know that´s also the definition of “chump.” But I don´t say so.
I am not self-righteous, not usually. But I hate this trash as much as Paddy does. And I love this Camino. There´s nobody else out here doing this filthy, mindless job.
God help the poor pilgrim we see throwing litter on the ground.