Pet Peeves from the Purview of the Sidewalk

BY MICHAEL QUIRK

A little over a year ago, I looked in the mirror and saw a fat person. No, it wasn’t Tony Siragusa robbing my house with a knife to my throat, rather it was my reflection altered with the visual receipts of the cookies, pizza, and beer supplementing my cheeks, neck, and gut. It was then that I decided to put an exercise plan into motion: one that included significant core and cardio work, and was affixed with four to five mile-long walks with my golden retriever Maddux (also a thick boy) around our urban neighborhood.

These walks are a great way to clear my head, get light exercise for my dog and I, and brainstorm self-serving blog ideas. The downside to these walks is I have seen first-hand the sloppy nature of humankind on full display. My walk goes from my house past apartment complexes, around a litany of businesses and parking lots, past a MARTA stop, across two separate crosswalks, past some townhomes that mostly cater to the elderly, and circled back to my house. While mostly a breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically, these walks have now accumulated a series of things that infuriate me, and I am prepared to lay them out below.

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Dog Shit

When I go for a walk, I equip myself with three things: my sunglasses, my leashed dog, and at least two grocery bags to pick up whatever emanates from his bowels. There are a slew of trash cans along my mile jaunt: 12 by my count. Whenever Maddux does his crouch of shame, I am at the ready like a left fielder waiting for a flyball to make its final descent from the sun above. I have the bag out, then scoop it up off the ground, I walk the bag to the trash can, and toss it in. Man, you should see how seamless I make it look. It’s almost like it’s the easiest f****** thing in the world to do.

Not so, says the majority of dog owners in my neighboring houses and complexes. An aerial view of our walk would look like that harrowing image of the fallen soldiers at Normandy Beach, except instead of fallen heroes, it’s the excrement of Purina from everything from Yorkies to Rottweilers. When I have to walk Maddux through the grass, I am high-stepping and sliding around feces like Fred Astaire to Zoot Suit Riot.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Michael, didn’t you say the townhomes are mostly occupied by old people? That must be hard to pick up.” Ah, you’d think. But in the apartments, there is a man in his 30s in a motorized wheelchair who PICKS UP AFTER HIS TORKIE EVERY SINGLE TIME. You are not allowed to play the “woe is me I’m old, where am I” card when a man in a wheelchair is able to bend down and pick up after his dog every time.

I don’t even know what is worse: not picking up after a small dog because you think it doesn’t matter due to size, or seeing your 90-Lb. dog drop a shit so large it makes a thud when it touches ground with Earth and just going about your day. Either way, it confounds me each and every time and leaves me with an untenable anger.

Barbara Rich: Getty Images

Glass and Food Garbage

In the same way I don’t understand how someone can’t just pick up their dog poop, I do not understand how I so often come across glass and food debris. There is a broken drink bottle on our route at least once every two weeks. It happens so often that you think, “this cannot be an ‘oops’ mistake.” This is someone finishing their drink and deciding they are done carrying a weightless bottle anymore and just decide to Rob Gronkowski spike it into the sidewalk.

There are a lot of characteristics about people that I forgive by thinking, “oh their parents must not have raised them right,” but I don’t think any parent on Earth says, “OK Junior, now that you’ve finished your drink, what do you do? That’s right, throw it at the ground as hard as you can and let it be somebody else’s problem.” Now, knock on wood, Maddux has yet to cut his paws on any glass we have encountered, but so help me God if he does, I’m going to bring John Wick to life.

Red Rover Walkers

I don’t know if there is a standard dimension for sidewalks, but if there is, this one seems about it. It is wide enough for one person going one way and someone passing by going the other way. Well, don’t worry, that doesn’t stop families and friends from walking four deep horizontally like they’re the Mighty Ducks on a power play. You’d like to think that when someone is minding their own business walking toward them, they would acquiesce and go off path or form a single-file line to give that person some space, as well. Not these assholes, though, as they have been training for this moment since Red Rover at kindergarten recess and want you to either go into the road or go straight to hell.

Live look at Barbara, Susan, Marcie, Denise, and other Barbara

Twice on my Facebook feed in the last month, I’ve had friends who both happen to be white and female post something along the lines of how white men never give room when walking and are just narcissists. Now, that may be true in their experience. Maybe because I too am a job application’s diversity section’s worst nightmare white male, that me and my fellow Connors and Hunters and Erics just give each other the “hey you also have privilege” nod and keep walking. But from my experiences, the most egregious infractions upon giving fellow walkers space are committed by middle-aged white women in walking groups.

Oh, so help me God, if you are trying to get from Point A to Point B and you encounter five women discussing their kitchen renovations with Starbucks in hand and baseball caps on, you’d have an easier go at tackling Derrick Henry than you do them giving you a foot of sidewalk space. Even if you look that human bulldozer aggregate in the eye with a pleasant “good morning,” all you’re getting back is a dismissive ignoring look of “not interested” as if you sent over a complimentary Fireball shot. This encounter is so prevalent from my walking experiences that now when I see the embodiment of Martha Stewart’s Home Living coming in my direction, I preemptively get into the street as my form of waving a white flag before they could crush my imprint into the pavement with their size 7 Asics.

Cars Almost Painting Me Into The Crosswalk

Part of my walk runs parallel to a busyish road, and with businesses on my side, there are frequently cars turning on and off that main street. Luckily, the world at-large saw this problem coming when automobiles came about and created crosswalks so that pedestrians could traverse their routes safely rather than play a human-version of Frogger. Cars, as part of the agreement they reached with the Department of Motor Vehicles, are supposed to look both ways for other cars and meat-shields humans before crossing the street. That doesn’t stop some drivers from declaring an Emergency State of YOLO and joining oncoming traffic with the unearned confidence of a blindfolded volunteer at a Criss Angel show.

In the last year, I have been almost hit by no less than a dozen drivers. Every time it’s the same: I’m walking in the crosswalk while the little electronic silhouette of a man waits for me at the other side of the street, and a car goes a foot or two before slamming on the breaks right in front of me, and giving me a sheepish hand mouthing the word “sorry.” Oh yes, your sheepish whoopsie approach definitely makes up for almost sending me flying into traffic like I was pushed out of the Moon Door in Game of Thrones.

I will say that hand up with “sorry” is better than the one time a guy in a minivan actually did bump into me after slamming on the breaks and had the audacity to hit me with the “what the hell” hand like I am the son of a bitch in this situation for walking across a lane earmarked for walking. While this piece is mostly in jest, this space seems less cheeky than the others in this blog as I think it will be looked back upon after my untimely demise one day at the hands of a Hyundai Sonata.

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