People, Americans in particular, are like tropical birds in a rain forest. When babies, they learn to depend on their parents that do everything for them, including clean up after them. All they focus on is their physical needs of food and nourishment. They hide well in the environment but leave all the signs of their presence, loud and obnoxious screeching and poop that lines the trunk or leaves of their chosen habitat. No, people do not screech loudly as they carouse through the aisles at a grocery store or even poop wherever they please in public, but they treat wherever they reside at any moment with the same consideration.
Early one morning, I am walking through Barnes and Nobles to my destination – Starbucks. As I pass through the sardine packed tables, I notice the immaculacy of my surroundings. I notice the order and co functionality of my environment, every piece of furniture serving a specific purpose and coexisting similar to the order in the rain forest habitat. Right angles, taintless floor, evenly spaced. Each of the eight tables is perfectly aligned in parallel structure. Each table has two chairs exactly 180 on the other side of the table with the exception of one lone large table with three chairs. But as I squeeze past the tables, I reach the far wall and the four coveted green wing-backed chairs. I plop haphazardly into its pristine upholstery and begin to take in the order of the environment and niche that I had placed myself into.
I return once again to my green fortress upon closing time on a weekday night, everything is completely askew. The order is no longer present but completely abolished. While the tables are one of the only objects remaining in their designated areas, the chairs are awry. Some tables have no chairs while others have four or more. Crumbs litter the floor. Empty coffee cups are scattered here and there while magazine subscription forms and various trash items cover the floor.
Like tropical birds, people fly from to place changing it to fit their needs, often leaving traces behind with no concern for those than follow them. Opening morning everything is pristine. The moment the first flood of people comes rushing in, each person morphs the public space to fit their needs and starts the inevitable cycle of destruction. This destruction impedes on those that later occupy the same niche. Whether it is an empty cup, moved furniture that is difficult to navigate around, or a laptop cord that creates a dangerous trip line, there is no consideration for the needs of others, just the needs of each individual. The tendency of focusing on selfish goals warrants that the golden rule takes on a whole new meaning: do unto others as they would do unto you if you worked at a coffee shop.
What I see at Starbucks compels me to believe that coffee shops, parks, and other designated public areas in America are ever present with evidence of previous occupants due to selfish interests. We come to these places ready to use them according to our will and desires with no thought as to how they might affect that of those around us and those after us. We plop into a comfortable chair, park bench, or food court table, and expect to be able to leave our trash regardless of the fact that a trash can is conveniently placed steps away. Since we had mothers that would always clean up our every mess, we value the idea that someone it paid to clean up after us so we need to make no effort to do so for ourselves. After all, it is their job and they would do the same it us given the chance.
When I leave Starbucks, I don’t parade out screeching like a bird, but I unconsciously and even consciously leave my cup resting on the table beside my chair even when a trash bin is feet away. Despite what I see at Starbucks, I don’t see my behavior changing or the behavior of those around me altering in the slightest. Even knowing that I, myself, create environments that benefit only my selfish desires in public places while leaving undesirable traces of my environment behind, my actions will not be revised. I will carry on the stereotypical view of American behavior and act as a slob in public, expecting those around me to clean up my every mess. It is despairing, yet there seems to be no way of escaping it.