Strip Mall Litter

I was grumbling, mumbling and engaging in other less polite expressions of anger one morning while doing my civic duty at highway pickup and feeling very proud of myself. I literally cleaned with a vengeance. “Why couldn’t those slobs hang onto their crummy detritus until they get home and then throw it in the trash?” I kept asking the hot sun, who had no sympathy for me and my virtuous sweat. Every time I picked up a Styrofoam cup I imagined a lazy woman, too lazy to cook her kids a decent meal, telling them “Just throw it out,” when they finished their Pepsi. I shuddered at the sight of beer cans, picturing drunks behind the wheel. Plastic Winn-Dixie bags reminded me that most shoppers are ignorant that oil, precious oil, is used to manufacture plastic.

I stretched my back, turned and took note of the abandoned strip mall across the highway from the Woman’s Club. Roof and siding flapped in the breeze, weeds pushed through cracks in the asphalt parking lot, doors hung loose inviting teens to the party. The county didn’t provide highway pickup volunteers with trash bags big enough for that piece of litter. But it had granted a tax abatement to the developer years earlier as an incentive to build that oversized piece of litter.

Why should the poor, tired folks who have to look at the eye-sore every day as they drive home from work give a second thought to tossing a beer can or burger box? After all, the people we are taught to admire, the people with money, do it, big time.


Author: Skipper Hammond

Skipper Hammond was born on the edge of Charlotte, N.C. in a time, in a neighborhood where children were free to play. She and her friends ran, biked, rode, explored and read. The entire neighborhood was their stage for the continuing plays Skipper created based on the stories they read. Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, British and American,Yankee and Confederate armies romped through woods, across fields and creeks, up and down streets until good guys prevailed or softball and hopscotch season arrived.  Then she grew up and went to the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Tar Heel legislators at the time saw no reason to finance economics education for women, but Skipper contrived a major in economics by cobbling credits in business and history. Involvement in a series of strikes by textile workers led to graduate work at Cornell with a masters in Labor Union History and several years of union organizing in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.  After marriage and the birth of her son and daughter, Skipper, then living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, worked at jobs where she could punch out—stitcher, machinist, assembly worker, candy maker, database designer, economics journal editor—and still have the energy needed for the real work of political organizing for social and economic justice.  Her political work took the form primarily of writing and editing for movement publications, and when she moved from Cambridge to a farm in rural north central Florida, she began writing for the Ocala Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun, then founded the Williston Pioneer, where she was publisher, editor, reporter, ad salesperson and janitor. She also raised goats. She currently divides her time, unequally, between Williston, Florida, where she continues playing in the woods, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she invents stories. 

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