As many people know, I used to work in Walt Disney World, the Happiest Place, and arguably, the Cleanest Place, on Earth. At Disney you are trained so thoroughly that the corporate standards become second habit and you adopt them as your own personal beliefs.
For instance, Disney teaches you never to point because it is too abrasive. If you need to give directions or draw someone’s attention to a particular area, you use either a two finger point or the entire hand. This gesture is considered more welcoming, less aggressive and friendlier than a one digit motion.
Disney also instills in you a strong displeasure for trash. That is particularly funny here in Africa, where trash is so abundant people live in trash in some areas. I would LOVE to see Disney do a field trip to Africa with their cast members (You aren’t an employee because that is too impersonal; you are a cast member because you are playing a part on stage and the guests [i.e. the customers] are the stars of the show. See what I mean about the Disney culture?). That would be an interesting experiment because Disney teaches its Cast Members that trash should never be ignored. If you see a piece of trash on the ground you MUST pick it up. If you are a cast member and get caught ignoring a piece of trash you WILL be chewed out by any and all cast members who witness the event.
The Disney anti-trash movement is so ingrained that there is even a named protocol: the Walk ‘N Scoop Method. The Walk ‘N Scoop involves someone seeing a piece of trash, walking toward the trash, bending down while still walking, picking up the trash while still walking, and walking away, never slowing down or breaking stride. It is expected that the Walk ‘N Scoop should be so effortless that an uninitiated observer will not even take note of what he has just seen.
A big proponent of the Walk ‘N Scoop myself, even 15 years after leaving Disney, I have largely abandoned that philosophy here. Sadly, littering is part of everyday life in Africa. People don’t think twice about throwing trash on the ground. Part of that is probably due to the lack of trash cans. More than once I’ve carried a bottle or package around with me all afternoon, keeping an eye open for a garbage receptacle and never finding one. But I never thought I would contribute to the littering problem, until recently.
Two weeks ago I was at the mall, where I bought a miniature sized chocolate bar which I planned to take home and eat after dinner. We are in the midst of summer here and it seldom drops below 100 degrees while the sun is up. I was leaving the mall, chocolate in hand, to walk about a mile to the combi (minibus) stop to catch a ride back to my neighborhood. As I walked along I could feel the chocolate slowly disintegrating in my hand. It started to seep out of the package and into my palm. Looking around frantically I could not locate a trash can anywhere and I didn’t want to carry the melting candy all the way home which was about a 20 minute ride stuffed into a clown-car type vehicle with no air conditioning. Plus, even when I got to my stop I would have to walk about another mile to get to my house. After a lot of mental anguish I finally decided to do it; I threw the candy on the ground.
Coming from a strict Irish Catholic family I couldn’t bare the guilt and told my neighbors. The look of shame from them made me feel even worse. “I don’t think you should be telling people that Kelly. Of course, at the rate they pick up trash around here, if you go back there you may just see it in the same place you left it,” Phil suggested.
Always one for a good experiment, I figured I would test Phil’s theory. I went back to the mall, right to the spot where I dropped my litter two weeks ago and shockingly, it was there!
I’m not sure if reclaiming the candy and properly disposing of it absolves me of my sin, but after identifying the candy as mine I did utilize the Walk ‘N Scoop, for posterity’s sake.