When you’re shouting at a stranger in a public place, veins and eyes popping, the last person you want staring back at you is a senior citizen. The last face you want on the other end of your angry, pointed finger is one with war stories almost as old as your own mother. But that’s what the dog park can do to people.
The scandal took place on a recent Sunday afternoon. There I was, minding my business, as my dog Penny performed hers.
Now, I can’t be sure, but I suspect my four-legged daughter ordered greasy takeout the night before because homegirl was taking her time. The kind of time most human men take in the facilities when they bring the sports section along. Respectful of her privacy, I found some shade and waited it out.
That’s when the hollering started. Initially, it hardly went noticed; Penny and I hadn’t been there long enough to offend anyone. But, when a pair of waving arms caught my eye, that notion went out the window. Apparently two minutes was plenty of time to offend a white-haired man sitting in a folding lawn chair in the distance.
“Hey! Pick that up!” he shouted. To clarify the depths of his obnoxiousness, he added, “You better pick that up!”
With that, the audacity fully registered. This man across the park was getting at me — yelling at me — to do what every decent dog owner does on instinct: take responsibility for my dog. And, before Penny had even finished the “sports section.” What nerve. Does he bang on bathroom stalls and order people to flush, too?
This is a good time to inform readers that, like a baseball umpire, I’m very good at calling people out. It can be curbside at the airport, parked at a stoplight, or in the checkout aisle at Costco. If a stranger crosses the line from decent human being to disrespectful (insert colorful curse word), someone has to put that person in his or her place. And, yours truly is glad to do it.
Some see it as embarrassing. I see it as a calling. When it involves a senior citizen as senior as this citizen, we probably all see it as a predicament.
The second that Penny emerged from the ladies room, I cleaned up after her and marched straight ahead for old yeller.
Going off like a bottle rocket on the Fourth of July somehow lost its luster when I finally reached him. Up close, his bucket list looked like it had a lot more check marks on it than from far away. OK, plan B.
In a tone more sugary than kids’ cereal, I told him I couldn’t help but hear the screaming and asked if there was an emergency. The sarcasm must have smelled more unpleasant than the contents in Penny’s doggie bag because he unloaded on me. The blood rushed to his face and the spit flew from his words.
That’s all it takes to stop seeing someone strictly as a demographic and start seeing them as a human being. A human being about to get a very close view of my dental work.
Without a verbatim recount of the screaming match, let’s just say both our moms got shout-outs. The rest of the altercation was about as decipherable as a “Real Housewives” reunion, which explains why one woman lit a cigarette, leaned back and took in the show.
But, the unflattering incident turned into a full-blown disgrace when I pointed at him, like any good scolder does, and he demanded I put my finger down. Take an order from old yeller? As if. To punctuate my defiance, I gave him the double finger point. That’s right, both arms held parallel to the grass with two index fingers aimed straight ahead. Take that!
Not until that very moment did I realize there’s a reason that cheesy choreography often borrows this move. The double finger point is the exact opposite of tough and intimidating. Unless it’s followed up with a midair heel click or the words “five, six, seven, eight,” avoid it by all means.
At this point, my dignity left the park, found my car in the parking lot and laid on the horn. Time. To. Go.
When I turned to leave, Penny was staring right at me. My entire reason for being there hit me smack in the face. Her floppy blond ears and big brown eyes never looked so innocent and sweet. And startled. She gave me the head tilt. Oh, the shame.
I felt shame for alarming her and shame for doing a double finger point without starring in a musical, but I mostly felt shame for not knowing when to walk away. It’s one thing to confront someone, senior citizen or not. It’s another to stoop to a level so low a shock collar is in order. Not even the dogs barked during that nasty exchange. The humans took care of that for them.
At least no one needed a rabies shot.
Contact columnist Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal or 383-0477. Follow her on Twitter at @startswithanx.