A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
On occasion, everybody steps in dog shit, literally or metaphorically. It’s inevitable — like puberty or menopause. It’s how we handle it that’s important. Recently, I witnessed a dog shit crisis and — Wow! — did I ever get a look at life in the 21st century.
I was standing outside an office building, having a coffee and sneaking an early evening cigarette, when a well-dressed woman (not a child, nor even a girl) came stumble-running around the corner. She was clearly in distress. She looked at me in shock, lurched forward, grabbed at the construction fence as her only means of support, and hung there, weeping as if she’d just seen an axe murder. I hit the adrenaline button, dropped everything and stride, stride, stride, went to help.
“Are you alright? What happened? Are you okay?”
She turned to me, and in a voice fierce with frustration, said, “I stepped in dog poo.”
I tilted my head like an inquiring Beagle, but before I could register a WTF reaction, her support group came wheeling around the corner. A mixed gender bunch of 30 Somethings, they brushed me out of the way as if I were being masculine to their friend and surrounded her in a two-deep comfort zone. I stepped back to my spilled coffee to give them room, and for the next 10, 15 (I gave up at some point) or even 20 minutes, I watched as they conducted an impromptu crisis intervention.
Okay, so what have we learned?
At unguarded moments, contemporary adults use expressions like “poo,” just as if they were grownup words.
Remember, our girl came around the corner first, so at some point, overcome by the trauma (drama?) she must have panicked and fled headlong into the night. Think about that!
There were plenty of kind words, a lot of hugs, and tissues for the eyes, but nobody actually dealt with the offending shoe. To be fair, one Sir Walter Raleigh did take his jacket off, but I never saw what he did with it. (Only his drycleaner could tell us that.)
The group, all dressed up with obviously some place to go, actually stopped the evening’s activities cold to deal with this emotional emergency — at some length.
And finally, no one in the group gave any indication that this was the least bit odd. There wasn’t one dissident voice. For example, nobody said, “For God sake, Madison! Scrape it off, and let’s go!”
The thing that blows me away about this little ad hoc soiree is these were ordinary people. I didn’t accidently run into a drama queen convention. Nor was it their first emotional rodeo. They’d been there before — lots — and, despite their lack of dog shit removal skills, they knew exactly what they were doing.
My point is, emotionally fragile has become a way of life in the 21st century. We are easily angered, eagerly offended and regularly resort to “the meltdown” to prove our emotional stake in the game. It’s our way of demonstrating our humanity, sensitivity and depth of character. The problem is it works. People take this stuff seriously. Me, I’m from a different time and, call me old fashioned, but I prefer dog shit without tears.