Letters to the Editor

Shaming the South end (tobacco) chewer

It’s not my concern if one of our neighbors indulges the daily habit of chewing tobacco. But it becomes my concern – in fact, the concern of everyone in town – when that neighbor thoughtlessly tosses the results of his habit along the main thoroughfare on the Island, polluting our parks and streets in a particularly disgusting manner.

For several years, I’ve made it a point of picking up any trash that I see on my regular walks—I’m notorious for appearing with a litter bag and “grabber” (highly useful for lifting refuse without touching it). In the last two years, at least, the “South End Chewer” (whoever he is) has become the most conspicuous and obnoxious source of trash in our city. He not only throws aside empty tins of his chewing tobacco (mostly “Copenhagen” brand, but occasionally “Red Man”) but also leaves several water bottles a week in which he has expectorated his black, slimy tobacco juice. Usually these bottles display a taste for designer water – Evian and other prestigious labels are most common.

The culprit throws his leftovers on both sides of the street, between SE 76th Street and SE 62nd Street. Pioneer Park is regularly victimized: he apparently views the finest nature reserve in town as his personal rubbish bin.

I’m writing this letter in the hopes that the chewer himself, or his family and friends, will identify the source of this unseemly pollution and do something to stop it. Chewing tobacco, and spitting the remains into plastic water bottles, can’t be a common practice on the south end of Mercer Island. Chances are, someone reading this alert will wince in recognition and join in the effort to improve our environment right here at home.

In this political campaign year, candidates all deliver platitudes about their environmental concerns — and then demonstrate stunning hypocrisy by polluting public property along our thoroughfares and green space with their campaign signs (which are often left standing or littering the curb long after the election). At least the names on the sign let citizens know who’s to blame. In any event, the bottles of tobacco juice and the discarded tins come from a currently unknown source.

My hope is that the solution to this problem will be similarly anonymous — with people showing their “green” commitment by speaking to anyone they know who regularly chews tobacco. It’s not too much to ask that such an individual would begin to put his tobacco tins and saliva bottles into a litter bag in his car or, if he’s walking the Island (as I do), into a bag he’d carry with him for that purpose — much as dog-owners conscientiously clean up after their pets.

Attention to this matter will make the summer more pleasant for all of us.

Michael Medved

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