In honor of reaching 1000 Instagram followers last week, I thought it’d be clever and pertinent to collect 1000 cigarette butts off the streets.
So I found my rubber gloves and my trash bag and I… procrastinated. Picking up other people’s trash is disgusting. Do I really have to do this?
Two days later, I rallied enough self-will (and San Francisco proffered enough enticing sunshine) to pick up my gloves and my bag and actually hit the streets. With my headphones blaring Alabama Shakes and feeling unnecessarily nervous about my endeavor, I started down the street.
For no reason that made any actual sense, I felt I had to get at least a block away from my apartment before I could start picking stuff up, less someone I knew saw me and thought (figured out) I was a total wackjob.
Exactly a block away from my apartment, I bent down and went for my first cigarette butt. One.
Sometimes I found them one a time, mostly I found those nasty things in clusters (people love to sully the shade of city trees with their cancer sticks), and I was able to hypnotize myself into the single-tracked focus of butt pick-upping as the fine people of Japantown scurried past me and gave me funny looks.
I was on a roll, thinking I’d surely be able to gather all 1000 in one go. And then the wind came up. And I got a very big whiff of old tobacco. And I nearly lost my lunch.
I managed to pick up and shovel 279 butts into my bag before I really had to be done for the day. I just couldn’t. I got home and all I could smell was tobacco. I was convinced that stuff was buried in my nostrils.
Day two happened two days after day one because day one sucked so hard. I decided I was going to be able to get the remaining 721 butts in one go, because I’m a doer. I found a few stockpiles in street gutters that made my mission easier. When I got to about 300 butts, I got a whiff so strong I gagged hard, twice. I persevered to 400, then capitulated.
Day three was today. I convinced myself to get this damn thing over with. I took to a street with less foot traffic and more apartments. I found stockpiles in ivy and rock gardens in front of said apartments. I found a few funny looking Chinese cigarettes that had cool wrappers. They looked like little fireworks. I also found the tiny butt of a joint, because San Francisco.
The takeaway? Don’t smoke. It makes your lungs black and picking up your butts makes me gag. Also, shout out to my first 1000 Instagram followers!