Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

The Early Bird Gets to Step in the *Fresh* Dog Poop

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Since I’ve always found maintaining a rigorous daily schedule important – if impossible – it helps to have indications in real time regarding my adherence to it. I do keep my watch more or less accurate, but at times it can be inconvenient to check my wrist, such as when I’m pushing a stroller uphill with one hand, as the other hand tries to keep the stroller occupant from removing his hat for the millionth time.

I am grateful, therefore, for the myriad external indicators, primarily other people or objects I tend to pass along the way. I know, for example, that if the pile of dog poop in a particular place is still fresh, I must be right on time. When I’m running late, there are already wheel marks or footprints in it by the time I get there.

I can also judge my progress by the point on the steps to the toddler’s day care at which I must dance around with a specific mother pushing her stroller in the opposite direction. She, in turn, has been known to prod her walking preschooler to hurry, for if I have passed her by the time they get halfway, they must be running late.

If the panhandler is not yet at his post by the time I leave my son at day care, I assume I’m in good shape (but the beggar might not be).  Since we tend to leave the house at the beginning of the morning rush, the number of cars waiting for that light tends to increase the later we get there. So if the panhandler has a respectable lineup of waiting drivers from whom to solicit, I know I have to step up the pace.

Then there’s the speedwalking friend (OK, so he just has long legs) who takes his twins to the same preschool as my three-year-old. If he passes me , pushing his double stroller, any time before the last two blocks, I take that as a bad sign (he, too, tends to judge his progress by the timing of our daily encounters). He will occasionally slow down so our children can squeal together for a few hundred feet; this usually means we will both wind up running even later.

Sometimes I drop my daughter off at preschool first, which means that on the way from there to my son’s day care, I must assess my progress relative to the number of minivans blocking the sidewalk at a crucial intersection. Negotiating that obstacle course when the banked sidewalk edge is inaccessible becomes ever so harder when I am right on time, so I prefer to be running slightly late if my route takes me that way; the bigger cars tend to move on by that time, and I only need reckon with the bodega’s detritus.

The bodega gets a delivery of produce, bread and various beverages a few minutes before that each morning, and the delivery people thoughtfully leave the crates of merchandise in the middle of the sidewalk for pedestrians to bump into. The bodega staff, at most two people, of necessity must take the stuff inside only a little at a time; they then dispose of the empty cartons in more or less the same spot on the sidewalk as before. If the ratio of merchandise to empty cartons is high, I’m in good shape; if low, I must hurry.

A friend from the other end of the neighborhood runs much the same circuit as I, only in reverse; we pass each other once in each direction. If I pass her the second time after the bodega, good; if before that, I’m late.

When I need to cross the main street one last time, it’s easier when I’m late, because morning gridlock has usually set in by then, and I need not wait at the crosswalk; I can amble across the street more or less at will. But if it comes to that, I’m probably too late for it to help.


Written by Thag

February 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm

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