September 3, 2002

In a pouring rain, Izzy watches a man throw his cigarette from a 1995 Jeep Wrangler.

Most days, Henry rode his bike to school. But it was raining a monsoon on the day after Labor Day, so I was on my way to give my youngest child a dry ride home in the minivan, thinking about how much empty space I was carting along by myself, spending down precious road bandwidth from the dwindling communal supply.

At a traffic light, I pulled alongside a young man driving a 1995 Jeep Wrangler with the top off, the rain pouring all over. He was smoking, which was some feat, given the downpour. He cupped the cigarette in his right hand, raising it to his mouth periodically and exhaling a cloud of smoke into the driving rain. As the light changed green, he threw the cigarette into the street.

This hardly seemed like littering. You can get so wet that it no longer matters what you do. Yielding to rain is a release from the narrow life, joining the will of insistent nature. Through most of our millennia here, people have gone about their business in the rain. But we have a lot more people now and very few caves.

As the Jeep drove off into the storm, I fetched the research log and jotted “ashtray flooded” as the likely cause for the flick. I reckoned I would be ordering bumper stickers soon.

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