Martians On The Bozman-Neavitt Road by George Merrill


I often walked on the Bozman-Nevitt road. It’s located near my home in Talbot County. Sometimes I’ll see a SWAT team picking up roadside debris. What, I’ve thought to myself, if this SWAT contingent were Martians and they were here, like intergalactic archeologists, sifting through and examining the remains that Eastern Shore inhabitants left behind them every day. Because walking can get boring, sometimes you have to find ways to entertain yourself. So, I began to imagine further that these Martians were seeking to learn more about us from our typical roadside debris. They wanted to know just what we earthlings here on the Shore were like and how we lived our lives. What, indeed, would Martians think from what they found discarded along the Bozman-Neavitt road?

I assumed the Martians would see the same stuff that I would normally pass by in the course of any week’s walk. What I see looks something like this. First, of course, there are the cars and trucks coming and going constantly, but also, as a result, I see lots of road kill. Squirrels and turtles seem to take the hardest hits, next possums and snakes and finally tiny little wooly bears and a variety of insects. Since they are all flat when I see them, identifying each creature poses significant challenges, and especially, I imagine, for Martians.

Beer cans are everywhere along the road; Bud, Miller, Coors, but only a few of them are ‛lite.’ Of the larger objects, beer cans outnumber all others by far. Next come soda cans and bottles, motor oil containers and lots of empty cigarette packs, both for filtered and non-filtered. I saw one pouch of Red Man chewing tobacco. There were always plastic cups around, some clear, others colored in various sizes as well as the Styrofoam coffee cups with Hardees and McDonalds written in cheerful colors on the side. Next to one fast food wrapper, I once saw a small plastic toy, ‛Buzz,’ the astronaut from ‛Toy Story.’ He apparently landed in Bozman from one of Easton’s fast food chains, unharmed. There was an occasional drinking straw lying here and there. Straws always look unused. Once I saw a discarded refrigerator.

Along the road one sees shredded napkins everywhere. There’s always a compliment of unused ketchup packets lying about. Why, a Martian might wonder, do earthlings take so many of of them, but don’t actually use them? Hose clamps and broken bolts cover the roadside like ants, along with unraveled music tapes that look, from a distance, like a snake pit or heaps of worms. Car antennae are an occasional sight. Of my one-time sightings, it included seeing a five-dollar bill and an empty box for condoms. They were some distance from each other.

From such a random sampling of artifacts, what is a clueless Martian to make of our Eastern Shore civilization? There are certain inevitable conclusions. One is that folks here love their cars and trucks and probably spend more than half their lives driving them somewhere. And if you’re insect or animal it’s worth your life to travel any road. I think the Martians would also have noticed that Eastern Shore drivers are remarkably friendly; they never hesitate to extend greetings to pedestrians from their cars even if the pedestrians happen to look unusual: I assume Martians would look pretty weird but I suspect they’d still earn that index finger Shore drivers raise from the steering wheel, extending a friendly salutation to any pedestrian.

Roadside findings make it clear that Shore dwellers are not weight conscious. They eat voluminous amounts of fast food and make no pretense of cutting calories by drinking “lite” sodas. It’s a plain Coke or industrial strength beer. For Shore dwellers, it’s industrial strength all the way. Although Martians may see evidence of an advanced civilization, however, the extent and variety of our cast-off artifacts on roads reveals some serious problems we have with waste disposal. But that’s easy for Martians to say: I imagine they can just vaporize whatever they want to get rid of. Martians probably concluded that we threw away that refrigerator I saw because it couldn’t keep beer cold, anymore.

Martians may have trouble making sense of the random objects they find. Statistical analysis could help. By looking at raw numbers, for example, the sum of the individual objects that the Martians found daily along the road, the Martians could pose some interesting hypotheses about the habits of Eastern Shore life. The days final tally of observed junk would suggest that, no matter what our laws profess, we still drink and drive a lot. We care less about chewing tobacco, using ketchup or having sex than we do about driving our cars or trucks, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, eating fast foods and keeping our engines well lubricated. It would be interesting to see what the Martians might conclude if they landed instead in Washington, D.C.

As I returned to earth, and watched the SWAT team caring for our community by their unselfish service, I wondered what my fictitious Martians might think of them and what they’re about. I pretended that I was talking with one. I asked the Martian what he thought the SWAT team was. ” That’s easy. Those are the mature adults, the caring ones of the human species. You can spot them anywhere; they’re the ones always cleaning up after somebody else’s mess.”

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Letters to Editor

  1. Jonathon Powers says:

    Excellent, George. And such a mundane subject. You were able to weave a great story around, well, junk.

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