A government so cheap that its constituents shit in the bushes

There’s a picnic area on the Northway, southbound a few miles before Warrensburg, where I’ve come across fresh human feces not five yards from the lawn twice this week. I’ve stopped to scavenge for deposit bottles and come across shit-smeared napkins or paper towels that had recently been used in lieu of toilet paper and left on the forest floor. One of these wipes was next to a fairly fresh pile of shit, probably half a week or a week old. Various other garbage is strewn around the picnic area, mostly in the forested margin, and there’s an even greater mess at the nearby northbound picnic area, although I haven’t come across anyone’s shit there.

My main problem with this open defecation is with the State of New York for encouraging it by not providing latrines or bathrooms. The woods-shitters should have dug and then covered catholes instead of leaving piles of their shit and used TP on the forest floor within stumbling distance of a public picnic area, but at least they got off the lawn before doing their business, and the available wooded area inside the chain-link fence isn’t more than fifty or so feet wide at its widest. The state provides a number of picnic tables and maintains a lawn around them, studded with large conifers for shade, but it doesn’t provide any facilities. Instead, it posts “Pack It In, Pack It Out” signs. I don’t know how many picnickers these signs actually persuade, since I don’t have a good idea of how many people use the picnic area. As far as I can tell, it’s quite lightly used, and the amount of trash in the perimeter woods is pretty modest, aside from its including human waste and shitty ass wipes. No one is around to enforce pack-it-out in lieu of push-it-out; the State Police have more money to make parking in median cutoffs for speed traps, and no sheriff’s department would have any interest in serving as the long arm of the law in a freeway picnic area that is usually empty. There oughta be a law, you say? I’m sure there is a law against shitting in that patch of woods, just as there is against littering using non-ass parts of the body. It’s about as enforceable as a law against home masturbation.

File the previous paragraph under “pig pen adventures” for conditions fit for a pig pen.

One of the parking areas near here (I think it’s the overlook at Exit 22, near Lake George Village) has a sign saying that the trash cans have been removed. Pot-o-Shit Friend will surely be disappointed. Parks that still have trash cans, of course, often have them under menacing signs warning visitors not to use them for household waste. This deters the sort of people who are already too law-abiding or civic-minded to throw bags full of their household trash into park trash cans, or who think that Five-O may presently be in the hood. Self-seriously badass scofflaws, cheap motherfuckers, and the indigent looking to avoid dump fees won’t abide by such a cheap, toothless warning. The Adirondacks have a fair number of all of these, especially the last two, in my experience (although in fairness, I’ve had some well fucked up relatives in these-here hilll. No government around here has the excess manpower or the inclination to police these cheats up. It just ain’t happening.

And it isn’t as if these losers and deadbeats are being cheap in a cultural vacuum. Removing the trash cans from public parking areas that formerly had them is cheap as fuck. Sure, some free riders will use them to illegally dump household waste, but if it’s a serious problem, a CCTV camera should be enough to catch the worst offenders (these people have trucks, man, trucks), and honestly, it won’t break the state budget if a few assholes use rest areas in lieu of their town dumps. It might be a burden on a county government, but the official cheapness in question here is happening at the state level.

And realtalk, since when has the New York State government given a shit about fiscal discipline? I’d be surprised if it isn’t in the bottom ten nationally for fiscal rectitude. The whole attitude of the NYS government is that it gets to dump big piles of money into whatever holes it fancies and there isn’t a damn thing the citizens can do about it. This isn’t something that can be fixed by sending Preet Bharara after some procedurally clumsy schmuck like Sheldon Silver. There’s an entrenched political tradition dating back at least a century and a half, if not straight back to Alexander Hamilton himself, in which officials claim the prerogative to misappropriate the entire state treasury for their cronies or their noisiest pressure groups, with absolutely no accountability to anyone else. It’s a form of semicodified paternalism in which paterfamilias turns out to be a mobbed-up thief with a variety of substance abuse problems, but he always insists that he’s doing all of this in the best interest of wifey and the kids. Sure, pops. It’s hard to escape the feeling that the NYS government and everything about the political theory informing it is designed to distort the Hamiltonian ideal into the most useless, most destructive, most corrupt mockery of itself possible. Forget Silver and Skelos; this is the state that barfed Andrew Cuomo, Michael Bloomberg, and Hillary Clinton into high office. Real fucking good job there, guys. This is the state that is still halfheartedly trying to limit the destruction of the Rockefeller drug laws two generations later. Nelson Rockefeller is another high official who, from certain angles, makes Rudy Giuliani look restrained. Giuliani, for fuck’s sake. Think about how bizarre this is.

This is a state government that can’t fund roadside trash cans or portapotties but has no problem spending forty years halfway bankrupting itself in order to suck correctional union cock. This is a government that commissions tourism promotion ads on in-state television stations and then basically tells tourists who stop at its picnic areas on the way back from the Adirondacks (you know, like, a big tourist area) to hang out here and have lunch but go take a dump somewhere else. “Behind that tree” seems to be else enough. But I don’t particularly blame anyone from out of town who does that. I know Warrensburg and its rest rooms much better than I’d expect of the average visitor from out of town. If the shit’s coming from locals who know full well that Price Chopper is open and how to get there, that’s pretty dirty, and it’s a possibility. Still, there’s something kind of wack about a state government as fiscally lax as New York’s encouraging people to stop for lunch on its property and then insinuating that they can go to hell if they have to shit afterwards. You know, reload, but hold fire. Uh, sure. That’ll work. Nothing unnatural or uncomfortable demanded of anyone here.

The truly bizarre context of this shittiness, from a wider perspective, is that the United States simultaneously has an ascendant wealthy minority at the top living in extreme opulence and privilege and a much larger poor minority at the bottom that is crashing and burning, parts of it unable to afford to heat its apartments or even maintain access to toilets. For anyone with a functioning moral compass, it’s scandalous that the vulnerable in a country with as much surplus wealth as the United States are forced to live in such squalor. For a large and apparently growing swath of the successful, though, the scandal is that the poor aren’t more scrupulously discreet about their bodily functions, their economic needs, and their very existence. The scandal is that the rich are even minimally inconvenienced or discomfited by the poor. The poors make it harder for them to blithely enjoy their own wealth and superiority. This is why new money asshats in San Francisco orchestrate vigilante assaults to run dirt-poor bottle-scavengers out of their neighborhoods.

Shit on the front steps to their Alamo Square Victorians. Shit in the entryways of their lofts in SoMa. Be the Visionary (TM) who shits on the sidewalk in front of their pads at the Shipyard. Let their precious dogs eat it and trigger their precious disgust reflexes. Show them that they only pretend to understand dogs. Shit on their parents’ immaculate greens at the Villages. Dox the president of the HOA and shit on her driveway. All of this is righteousness. Perform these shitzvahs for your country. Make #TCOT and #TakeUber! understand what they’re doing to this joint. Make them smell what the Rock had better not be cooking.

Seriously, some of these yuppie assholes won’t move to change a damn thing until their quality of life, too, has been diminished. They salve their own consciences by walling off from their lives all the ugly stuff that the less fortunate have to navigate. If this stops working and these supercilious fuckwads are forced to behold the messes that they have forced others to make, they’ll start demanding actual reforms that actually help normal people in their cities complete activities of daily living somewhere other than the sidewalk. Sometimes I truly think that nothing short of that will doo.

What does New York State do instead? Why, it posts menacing signs in front of its bottle redemption centers warning that tendering bottles on which a deposit was not paid is civilly punishable by a fine of $100 per bottle and up to $25,000 per tender. This gets into some Twilight Zone mens rea messes for bottle scavengers, who have no fucking idea where their bottles were purchased and can do no better than guess that it was somewhere nearby. It isn’t hard at all to see the authorities (say, the NYPD) abusing the in-state origin requirement to make life hell for homeless people by falsely or baselessly accusing them of tendering bottles from out of state. There is absolutely no chain of custody on these bottles. Even the State of New York, which is megalomaniacal in so many other respects and has one of the largest consumer markets in the country, isn’t pushy enough to demand that bottlers establish separate bottling lines for New York just to keep the deposits straight. They aren’t that crazy.

Sure, there’s a legitimate policy interest in keeping the mob from shipping deposit bottles in from Hoboken and Perth Amboy by the truckload. That could cause a serious drain on the state treasury. A few enterprising freelance cheats incidentally bootlegging their empties in from trips to Pennsylvania or New Jersey will not. Besides, these deposit regimes have turned into huge moneymakers for state governments because so many people can’t be bothered to redeem bottles on which they’ve already paid the deposit, let alone hustle other people’s beer cans off the roadsides like I do when I have some extra time on my way into town. My perspective is fuck yeah, it’s a nickel a pop. For many others, probably including quite a few people who could use the money, it’s more like fuck it, it’s just a nickel. Even if they could come out far ahead (by collecting and redeeming their own cans, for instance), they don’t feel like bothering with it. Additionally, New York is pretty hard-assed about crushed and otherwise damaged cans in a way that Oregon is not.

And that, of course, is a damning contrast. Oregon runs one of the leanest, most accountable state governments in the country, and it also has the best high-volume, on-demand deposit bottle gibs evarr, as well as richer trash cans than any I’ve been able to find anywhere around here. Get you a state government that can do all of this at once.

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