Birney Imes: Trashy

September 8, 2012 7:03:19 PM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


In the early days of television a CBS reporter at one of the political conventions approached hotel magnate Conrad Hilton with camera and microphone. As journalist Bob Woodward tells it, the reporter said, "Mr. Hilton, there are five million people watching you, you can say anything you want." 


Without hesitation Hilton looked into the camera and replied: "Next time any of you are in any hotel anywhere and you are planning to take a shower, please make sure that the shower curtain on the outside goes inside the bathtub." 


Given that same opportunity here in Columbus, I would, like Hilton, not hesitate. "Stop what you are doing, walk outside and pick up all the litter on the sidewalk and the street in front of your house and business."  


Doing so wouldn't take much more effort than moving the shower curtain to the inside of the tub. 


On a walk Saturday morning, at the intersection of South Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue, I picked up 14 pieces of litter. I counted. I don't say this to show what a civic-minded fellow I am, only to show the extent of the problem. Rarely are downtown sidewalks free of litter. On a walk from The Dispatch offices to one of the downtown coffee houses, you can fill a plastic grocery bag with debris. 


What does that say about us as a community? Are we that uncaring? That uneducated? That oblivious? Could it be the state that is close to last in everything good and first in everything bad leads the nation in litter? Possibly. Probably. 


I'm convinced most litterers don't read newspaper columns and editorials, so maybe this is one more tree falling in an empty forest. 


Or maybe not. 


When I went off to college many years ago, I fell squarely into the uneducated and oblivious camp. Without thinking I threw trash out the car window. My friends began to call me "Mr. Ecology." I got the message quick. 


But what can we do?  


Maybe person-to-person evangelizing like my friends did with me is the answer. By letting others see you picking up trash. 


We as a community do a fine job keeping the entrance to the city and Main Street looking nice, but one doesn't have to wander far from the main drag to find areas in need of attention. 


Pick a word: dereliction, negligence, indifference. Whatever you call it, it's not a good reflection on any of us. 


One of the speakers at one of the just-finished Democratic convention brought up the subject of citizenship. With citizenship comes responsibility. Keeping your town clean may be but a small part of that obligation, but it's an important one. Want to do something for the common good of your community? Here's one way. 


So, please, if you will, put your shower curtain inside the tub and then walk out the front door and pick up the litter you find there.

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.