I wrote the following on Saturday, the 15th.
I lost my composure yesterday. Perhaps if I tell the story I will feel better. What is the good of the blog if I can’t use it as an instrument of catharsis?
We are dog sitting. Tim and Candace are out of town. Tim’s dog, Tanks, is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve known, with a big laughing smile of a face and an easy-going disposition. He also happens to be an eighty-pound pit bull.
* * *
Carole walked Tanks five steps behind me and Lucy. We were headed home. Mission accomplished, we each carried a poop bag, full. A man approached us from behind. “You keep that dog away from me,” he said, gesturing to Tanks.
I laughed. “This is the one you should be worried about,” I said, turning and scratching Lucy’s ears.
“Keep that dog away,” he repeated, as he walked closer. “That’s not a pet. That’s a monster.”
I heard no humor in his voice. This was not a joke. Further, he had insulted Tanks–and us, as if we would walk a monster down a street in Portland. This immediately rankled me. But I recovered.
I scratched Tank’s ear. “Naw,” I said, “this guy is just a big lug.”
The man continued his rant as he passed. He tried to get in his car, but the key wouldn’t work. He was maybe forty years old and wore jeans and a nice sport shirt. He had tinted glasses that hid his eyes slightly.
“What is your problem?” I asked. “Beside not being able to get in your car.” I employed a touch of sarcasm. He moved to an adjacent car. “We’re just out walking our dogs. It’s a nice day. Leave us alone.”
He continued in the same vein, ranting. He was relentless. We walked on. I don’t like confrontation. To equal measure I don’t like idiots. (I was beginning to muster a bit of attitude.) In the correct car now, he was pulling away. He rolled the passenger window down, continued to yell, impugning Tanks and us, his walkers. I noticed New York plates. I apologize to my New York friends for the following:
“Oh, I get it,” I said. “You’re from New York. No wonder you’re an asshole.” My composure was not yet lost, but had taken a wrong turn. His bizarre haranguing continuing. He pulled up next to us, shouting through the passenger window; verbal vomit on the societal dangers of pit bulls, owners of pits, and so forth.
I suspect, reader, you must think I am leaving something out of this account, an action that provoked him. Yes, I called the man an asshole. That was a step in the wrong direction. But nothing transpired prior to that, nothing to trigger him but our existence.
He rolled past us, window down, frothing. I thought: Do I throw it or lob it? I could throw the poop bag or I could lob the poop bag. Or I could continue to walk away.
I am happy to report that the bag cleared the open window easily–he had pulled less than two feet from us–and landed directly and softly in his lap. That shut him up. I quietly cheered my precision.
“Now why did you do that?” Carole asked. She is an unfailing source of the right question.
“I couldn’t resist.” I grinned, sort of.
The man pointed at me. “You stay right there,” he shouted. “Stay right there.” He rushed to pull his car over. I thought: Doug, you’ve gone and done it now, gone and provoked a madman.
“Hey, look,” I said, leaning to him. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry. Open your door. I’ll get the bag.”
“I’m calling the police,” he said. I looked at Carole. She looked at me. I think we both felt slightly better about my poop pitch. The dogs watched mutely. (Where they enjoying silly human antics?)
“Okay,” I said. “Do what you want. We’re walking home.” He wagged his finger at us. He told us to stay put and of course we ignored him. He held his phone to his ear. He let his car running at the curb and chased us down Commercial Street. I confess to slowing my gait, as if to taunt. A few blocks later, I turned to wave goodbye. He frowned at me then looked up and down Commercial. He was certainly desperate for the authorities before we made our get-away.
I am a civilized man. But insult my dogs while I’m holding a bag of poop and I cannot guarantee a civilized response.
I feel better now.
Thanks for listening.