"But it's only one Cheeto"

 a rant by L. Lisa Lawrence

(author holds copyright on all material.  Permission granted to link to original pages, please use contact link on webpage for any requests for reprinting or publishing)

I bet you thought this was going to be a rant on fitness or nutrition.

Nope; it’s a rant about a very disturbing syndrome in our society that only seems to be getting worse. The world seems to be filled with people who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions or consider how their actions might negatively affect someone else.

A classic and perhaps overly simple example of this can be explained with Cheetos.

When I was a park ranger at Devils Tower National Monument, doing law enforcement, climbing rescue and emergency medical response, I had other duties that were a bit “less glamorous”. One of them involved “Dog Town”.

The government rocket scientists that designed the monument decided to put the main park road through the middle of a prairie dog town. Granted, the monument was established in the early 1930s, way before they could anticipate over half a million visitors in short season spanning just a few months each year.

This is the age of television, radio, internet, cell phones as well as all sorts of printed media. Anyone with an IQ above double digits should know that to feed a wild animal is to sentence it to death. Animals that are fed can become dependent on human food and die in the winter when the free handouts are gone. They can die of dehydration and malnutrition, often get hit by cars because they are not afraid of, and interact with humans in heavy traffic areas, and in the case of bears and mountain lions can be designated as “problem animals” and when relocation fails (as it usually does; they often beat the Fish and Game trucks back to the original problem area) they are “put down”.  Deer in Grand Canyon National Park have become habituated to human food and many autopsies show aluminum foil, plastic and other inedible and dangerous items in their stomachs.

For those that haven’t opened their eyes to the world outside their big city condominium complex, the Park Service makes it easy to do the right thing. At Devils Tower for example, as you drive into the monument and are waiting in line to get to the entrance station, a sign provides a radio station to tune into for park information. One piece of information that is provided is, “Please do NOT feed the Prairie Dogs”. A sign at the entrance station it’s self says, “Please do NOT feed the Prairie Dogs”, The brochure that the ranger gives you says, “Please do NOT feed the Prairie Dogs” as does a special handout printed in red that is included with it. When you arrive at the pullout to “Dog Town” there is are huge signs that say, you guessed it, “Please do NOT feed the Prairie Dogs” All of this information includes the fact that its not good for the prairie dogs, that they bite and can carry rabies and the plague.

So what does “Joe Tourist” in his Winnebago do the moment, he and his 2.5 kids and dog (which he will not keep on a leash and will not clean up after) do the moment they get to “Dog Town” You guessed it again; They feed the Prairie Dogs.

The first answer they come up with when the “nice ranger” (not wielding a ticket book) tries to educate them is, “But it’s only one Cheeto”. Well guess what buddy? This park sees over half a million visitors in just a few short months. Half a Million Cheetos is a lot. “But MY kid wants to see the prairie dogs.” is how they often respond.

Well, that makes it different. It’s YOUR kid. YOU and YOUR family are so much more special than the rest of society, so we’ll make an exception just for YOU. (I never actually said this, but I used to think it all the time)

Part of my job was to scoop up the dead prairie dogs that got hit by cars while running out onto the road in hopes of a Cheeto, and carry them over near the fox den. It’s depressing work even though the death of one creature brings life to another because it’s not part of the natural process and is avoidable.

I used to be secretly glad when someone got bit, which happened quite often. We never had a documented case of rabies or plague when I was there, but as I was scrubbing out the bite (which hurt) and asking when the last time they had a tetanus shot was (if you can’t remember, you need a booster) I’d list the dangers of all the nasty diseases the cute litter buggers can carry, in full earshot of other “feeders” in hopes that they might care about their own safety, even if they don’t care about anyone or anything else.

Which leads me to the 2nd and more heinous aspect of the “It’s only one Cheeto” mentality, how angry and even violent people become when they are called on their behavior. Rather than taking responsibility for it and changing the behavior they lash out at the first person that calls them on it. I can’t count the number of times that I had to respond to “Dog Town” for some guy in a Winnebago that threatened and or assaulted one of our maintenance workers. Now we’ve just turned a simple verbal warning into potential charges for assaulting a federal officer. (non commissioned employees count)

We see this mentality everywhere. The dog owner that refuses to pick up their dog’s poop on a heavily used public trail or walkway even when bags are provided every few hundred feet, who gets downright hostile and aggressive it is brought to their attention. The neighbors that blast their stereos at all hours of the night because they feel that their right to damage their hearing, far outweighs their neighbor right to sleep peacefully in their own home so they can be productive at work the next day and who threaten to “kick the ass” of a neighbor who politely asks them to turn it down. Don’t even get me started on the rude and dangerous things people do in traffic to get someplace two seconds faster than the person whose safety they decide to endanger.

The sad thing is, the “It’s only one Cheeto” mentality, is simply our society’s movement to “It’s all about me, everyone else be damned.” Is it any wonder that we see so much road rage and violence in our society?

I liken the energy that we put out into the world as ripples in a pond. One small action sets off a chain of other actions. To use traffic as an example; Unnecessarily cutting someone off, riding their tail, flipping them off or other hostile behavior just ticks them off, and they are more likely to be aggressive and hostile to the next person and so on and so on and so on… If these events escalate as they ripple out, it could potentially end up as a road rage incident.

On the other side of the spectrum, if we think about someone other than ourselves for a moment and let someone merge, we make them happy and they are more likely to be considerate of others and that energy can spread and escalate.

Half a million Cheetos can kill a lot of prairie dogs.

Taking the time to think about someone other than ourselves can bring a lot of joy to the world.

You decide.

(author holds copyright on all material.  Permission granted to link to original pages, please use contact link on webpage for any requests for reprinting or publishing)

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