Monday, June 16, 2014

The Great Poop Incident of 2014

I'm not sure this story has a moral. In fact, I'm almost positive it doesn't. But we'll see. Maybe I'll stumble upon one by the conclusion. Either way, I'm writing about my year downtown, and this happened to me while living downtown. So, here we go.

My wife and I have a dog. Her name is Fiona. She's an angel, but she's also an animal. This information will come in handy later.

Sunday evening, I took Fiona on a walk to Smale Riverfront Park in downtown Cincinnati. Smale is a wonderful park that opened a few years ago because John G. Smale gave the city a generous $20 million gift to honor his late wife, Phyllis. It's gorgeous. There are a couple of water features where kids can play; there's a great view of the river; there's lots of green space for people to picnic, walk dogs, and frolic (if you're the frolicking type). And there are a handful of large metal swings that you can sit in with your friends, family, or significant other and, well … swing. The park is a stone's throw away from our downtown apartment, so I take Fiona to Smale for a daily walk to stretch her legs and "take care of business."

Okay, back to the story: I was walking Fiona in Smale Park Sunday evening, and we ended up near the swings (approximately 10-15 feet away) in a large grassy area. Fiona decided the spirit was moving her, so she popped a squat.

Now, being a gentleman, when others are around, I always try to position my body in a way that blocks the dirty deed from innocent eyes. It's an imperfect system, of course, but I make an effort. And, this should go without saying, but I always clean up after her. And I mean really clean up. If necessary, I've been known to rip up a few blades of grass if it means completely clearing the area of excrement.

So, as I was doing my best to maintain Fiona's dignity, I heard a woman behind me (sitting on a swing) say, "Are you serious?" Then, a guy sorta chuckled good-naturedly and said, "You gotta do what you gotta do." And the woman replied, "That's ridiculous."

(Here's where I sorta blacked out a little bit, so while I believe the rest of our dialogue is truthfully represented in this blog, I can't guarantee 100% accuracy.)

I turned and politely (and I promise I was being polite) said, "Did you say something?" And she said, "Yeah, your dog pooped right in front of my kid." (Their kid was probably two years old. Maybe younger. And he was sitting on his dad's lap in the swing.) So I said, "Your kid doesn't poop?" And she said, "Not in front of other people." So I said, "Are you being serious? My dog is an animal."

(I thought Fiona's classification as an animal was obvious to onlookers, but perhaps the woman thought I fathered a very harry child and walked that child on a leash in the park.)

That's when the woman's husband decided to get involved. He said, "Relax, dude." Emphasis on dude. "Relax, dude." Just like that. Something sorta snapped inside my brain and I said, "Tell your wife to relax." Emphasis on wife. And he followed up with a second, "Relax, dude." Two can play that game, I thought, so I dropped another, "Tell your wife to relax." Super double emphasis on wife!

We could have gone on like that for a while (I was prepared to reply, "Tell your wife to relax," until I passed out from exhaustion or died of old age), but they decided to give me the silent treatment. So I ended our discussion by saying, "That was real classy; go back to the suburbs," and walking away. (At least I'm not getting arrogant after living in the city for a month.)

I'm not going to sugarcoat this. It wasn't my finest moment. (The woman was obviously in the wrong. I mean, it was a dog pooping in a park! I have no idea what she wanted me to do, or how dog poop was going to scar her child, or why that woman hates poop so much.) I should have walked away or diffused the situation. I wanted to throw the poop bag at the woman's head and/or rip my shirt off and fight her husband. I did something in between.

I didn't threaten. I didn't curse. So, I guess I've got that going for me. But my reaction was fairly pedestrian. Most rational people with a mild temper would have probably responded with some variation of what I did. And that makes me kinda sad. As I write this, I wonder what's going on in that woman's life to make her behave so strangely. It was Father's Day, after all. What's their relationship look like? Maybe it's great. Who knows? That was a very small snippet of their lives, and we all have bad moments.

But maybe they needed a stranger to extend them grace on a Sunday evening in Smale Riverfront Park. Maybe they needed undeserved kindness. Maybe the last thing they needed was a guy trying to pick a fight after his delicate sensibilities were offended. It could have been worse. You could be watching this story on CNN. "Cincinnati man suffocates woman with poop bag, strangles man with dog leash, adopts poop-fearing child before being arrested in Smale Riverfront Park." But it could have been better. Much better.

Next time.

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