My husband and I have been busy lately, gearing up for a stretch of alpine camping and adventure. We’re looking forward to escaping the heat, decompressing and recuperating from recent illness and existential crisis. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I noticed him getting his fanny pack ready for our departure.
The first chuckle came in response to my routine amusement at seeing the tattooed, chain-smoking, leather jacketed, “grease monkey” rock guitarist who swaggered up to me on our first date all those years ago, today fussing over the practical, efficient and deceptively sexy fanny pack he proudly insists on wearing during all of his (completely smoke-free!) dad adventures.
For the record, I think the fanny pack is amazing. I love the hardcore “I’m utterly oblivious to your ridiculous fashion standards” attitude that comes with it, and he carries around all sorts of cool stuff to get us out of any jam. It’s kind of like hanging out with Batman, if Batman was a lot more chill, encountered (slightly) fewer dangerous felons and criminal masterminds, engaged in even cheesier dialogue, and mostly wore dad jeans and fanny packs.
The second chuckle came from watching McBatdad carefully compress a bunch of repurposed plastic grocery bags and stuff them into his beloved fanny pack with a certain familiar intensity clouding his face, as if he were contemplating an important mission.
By now I know his intentions for the plastic bags just as well as I know why his thoughts became so troubled as he loaded the special equipment into his pack. He may be a mechanic by day, but by night (or, OK, on his day off from work — usually Tuesday), McBatdad is a fierce Litter Warrior.
Ever since I’ve known my husband, pretty much every time we go hiking or floating together anywhere (which is quite often), he carries a bag to pick up random litter along the trail to responsibly discard at the end. This routine is one of the many reasons I adore the man, and although I found his humble commitment to improving his world utterly charming and respectable, it took a little while to get used to the brief but inevitable mood shift.
Despite his burly appearance and (self-professed) “resting bitch face,” McBatdad is generally a pretty laid back and non-confrontational dude. After all, his childhood idol was Dalton from “Road House,” and he does yoga, for bat’s sake! I always view him as a deep well of strength and gentle wisdom, but I can’t deny something dark comes over the man when he engages in a clean-up mission.
My husband loves his many outdoor adventures, and being deep in the woods (or maybe floating in a stream) is where he feels most at peace with himself and the world around him. He begins and ends most every hike in quiet contemplation, but those who share a certain gift will sense a very subtle disturbance in the Force shortly after he encounters his first piece of trash.
A quiet darkness creeps across his gaze, and his breath grows shallow and rapid as he snatches up whatever discarded bottle or can or other debris has caught his eye and angrily stuffs it into his bag. The tree branches all around him seem to quiver and curl with the heat of his fury, and under his breath he begins unleashing a furious tirade of words so foul I can only stop and stare in awe.
McBatdad’s pet peeves in general include laziness, unnecessary waste and careless and/or callous indifference to the needs and feelings of others, but nothing enrages the man quite like littering, and particularly littering in areas specifically reserved for appreciating the natural beauty of our home planet.
After encountering the first few items of irresponsibly discarded debris, he generally spends the next small stretch of the hike allowing the frustration and bitter disappointment in his fellow man to flow through him, building to a frightening crescendo of unclenched despair and wild-eyed rage as he spits through clenched teeth, “What kind of soulless monster tosses a Mountain Dew bottle and an empty pack of Camel Lights onto a nature trail?!”
It’s a pretty intense (if slightly adorable) little scene, but by now I know if left to his own boiling thoughts and anguish, McBatdad will shortly return to his customary state of tranquility of his own accord. These are the sorts of things a woman learns about her husband during a long marriage. Never speak during the “Stairway” solo, he doesn’t like talking about that one tattoo, and it’s best to just back off and leave him alone during his Litter Rages.
This is the first time McBatdad has ever publicly revealed his identity as litter-fighting super-dad, and as a general superhero policy he typically avoids exploiting his personal connections to the media. Just this once, however, he asks me to spread a simple message.
We all know litter problems can have complex causes, some unintentional, but a great deal of the problem is caused by the careless and/or callous indifference of human beings. We also know these are issues that can happen anywhere, but we can’t deny it seems to happen here a lot more than it should.
Please educate yourself about local efforts to clean up our city and prevent future littering, and brainstorm about small ways you can help. And Holy Hubris, Batman! STOP THROWING YOUR STUPID CRAP ON THE GROUND! Yes, that includes cigarette butts. And yes, that even includes food discarded along the highway. (It causes eagles and other large birds of prey to frequently get hit by cars when swooping down to eat your discarded fries.)
Will McBatdad encounter another Litter Rage while trekking through the alpine wildflower meadows? Will he return to Mobile to find new hope in his cleaner city?
Find out next time. Same bat time. Same bat channel.