I’ve been spending a fair amount of time at the beach in the last several days. I’ve been spending time in the sweltering heat, getting a huge dose of the Vitamin D and gene-altering radiation delivered sunup to sundown by our primary star. I don’t have any superpowers (yet), but I’m enjoying the time.
Given that fact, I want to write briefly about something that really upset me while I’m at the beach. No, it’s not about masks. It’s about butts on the beach.
But not the flabby disasters you’re thinking about right now.
Butts on the Beach
Many years ago I was a smoker. I varied in how many cigarettes I smoked in a day, but it was never less than one for many years. I understand the nature of addiction, and have a great deal of empathy for the people who have yet to manage quitting.
There are even still times, all these years later, when the craving can creep into my consciousness. It’s really weird how a craving can come out of nowhere. It can blindside you.
One of my triggers is the taste of a regular Pepsi, because there was a time when that was all I pretty much drank that wasn’t alcohol, and so I had a lot of cigarettes while drinking them. Hot coffee on a cool morning can kick those cravings up, too.
The point is, I’m not one to judge someone who hasn’t quit. It is what it is. If someone asks, I’ll help anyone who wants tips on how to do it. (Cold turkey really is the only way that’s guaranteed to work, and you have to quit for yourself more than anything or anyone else.)
But there’s one thing that drives me nuts. Cigarette butts. In particular, cigarette butts on the beach.
It’s bad enough that smokers are conditioned to think that stamping a smoke out on the ground is equivalent to throwing out the waste. It isn’t, it’s a health and environmental hazard, and it’s just plain rude.
Cigarette butts on the beach, however, are an atrocity. Smokers treating the beach as if they are sitting in some magnificent ash tray of their personal use are inflicting harm on the birds, the ecosystem, and ultimately the oceans.
Few things shatter the tranquil experience of a walk on the beach like looking down and seeing a cigarette but sitting where someone left it when they went home. After finding one, you should always look around to find some others. I promise that you will.
I was guilty of this exact thing in the past, and it’s something that fills me with great regret. I was a thoughtless fool, and I wish I could undo every cigarette I left on a beach, or in a parking lot, or stamped out on the side of the road.
I’m grateful that I quit and that, even if I were to “fall off the wagon” with tobacco again, I’d never leave another cigarette butt anywhere but stamped out and then placed in a bin or some other collector.
Finding a Positive Lesson
That’s the beauty of it, right? That people can change and that they can regret their past mistakes. The person I was X number of years ago isn’t the person I am now.
Every time I see a cigarette butt on the beach – which often I’ll pick up so that I can dispose of it more properly – I’m reminded that people can change. I have to hope that those people who left their butts on the beach are on the verge of learning not to do it, too.
Maybe that’s a good lesson for everyone to have. Look for something that reminds you that you’ve stumbled, if only to keep you humble.
That’s the best any of us can do, I guess.