We spotted this dynamic duo earlier in Lincoln Square cleaning up – and counting – cigarette butts on the east side of the 4600 block of North Lincoln Ave, just south of the el tracks. She walked along with a clipboard pointing to stray cigarette butts on the sidewalk and counting off (she was at 19 when she passed us), while he obediently swept up each butt once she’d recorded its presence. We wanted to ask them what was going on, but by the time we finished parking and unpacked our gear, they were a block away and we were late. We’re guessing they’re not college kids on a scavenger hunt or game show contestants answering a trivia question.
Their endeavor, whoever countenanced it, suggests one possible gauge of neighborhood character – the butt index. How does the nearest commercial block to your home rate for butt density? Your neighborhood as a whole? Some of us think Chicago’s smoking ban can’t be phased in fast enough (others will, no doubt, be upset when the law takes full effect), but we noticed on a recent trip to Ireland that banning smoking causes a dramatic spike in a city’s overall butt index.