Monday, September 08, 2008

All Bark

There's this lady who walks her two ancient beagles across the front plaza of my office every day around 6 a.m. She's on the short side and kind of squat, and with her graying, curly hair, she reminds me of Shelly Winters. Or maybe the character Shelly Winters played on Roseanne.

I first encountered Dog Lady right after I started working in this particular building. We passed each other near the parking garage, I smiled politely, and she shot me a "go to hell" look that singed my eyebrows off.

Despite my tough, manly-man exterior, I secretly want everyone to like me. So the next time I saw Dog Lady, I smiled again and offered up a bright "Good morning," hoping she'd let me pet her dogs. Instead, she steamrolled past me, tossing another concentrated burst of Evil Eye in my direction.

Dog Lady's animosity really bothered me, until I realized that it could have been inspired by point of view. Speaking for the entire male gender, we have a bad habit of viewing ourselves, individually, as non-threatening entities. As such, we're not always aware that the things we say and do have the potential to cause stress and fear. From my point of view, I'm a nice, harmless guy who thinks dogs are cool. From Dog Lady's point of view, it's early in the morning, still dark outside, she's by herself, and this 6'1", relentlessly cheerful man is expressing unwanted interest in her.

Yeah, that would scare the shit out of me, too. I decided to leave Dog Lady alone from then on out.

This morning, I was outside enjoying my usual sunrise cigarette, and I spied Dog Lady approaching from around the corner of the drive-through bank behind my building. At the same time, a car pulled through the driveway of the bank and parked at the edge of the road. A woman hopped out and trotted towards the mailbox about ten feet away.

Dog Lady stopped beside the car and put her hands on her hips. "Hey!" she shouted. "You're blocking the sidewalk!"

The woman dropped a package in the mailbox and trotted back toward the car without response.

"I said you're blocking the sidewalk!" Her complaint still not acknowledged, Dog Lady maneuvered herself around the vehicle and advanced on the woman, unleashing a sulfurous barrage of obscenities until her target, now visibly alarmed, scrambled back inside her car and locked the doors.

"Asshole!" Dog Lady screamed, her face inches from the driver's side window. Then she stormed on down the street, dragging her confused, wheezing beagles behind her.

On second thought, I don't want Dog Lady to like me after all.


Deborah said...


But I think it's really great that you figured out that you could pose a threatening figure even though you know yourself to be non-threatening. Few men get there.

Evn said...

That Girls Read Comics post on WisCon got me thinking about it.

But I wish you could have seen Dog Lady walk around the car to complain that the car was in her way. It was classic.

Anne Johnson said...

I pity the dogs. Even dogs know when their owner is nuts.

Evn said...

The beagles do usually look remorseful...

Hey, wait a second, get off your hip! Healing trumps posting terribly witty comments.

Thalia said...

I agree with Deborah, though jaded curmudgeonly radfem old me has to say that, alas, it's not that men sometimes can look threatening, but that they generally do. Even wanted interest has that unsure bit of threat to it underneath, you know?

Anyhow. Grumpy and jaded today, I guess.

Cosette said...

You have Dog Lady; I have Hat Lady.

Everyday, more than once, I see her walk along outside my office. She always wears a large hat, sunglasses, and is smoking. She walks fast, with purpose, and looking down. Up close, she looks grumpy and I've seen her grumble and make obscene gestures at drivers and other pedestrians. Yet I can't help but wonder her. Where is she coming from? Where is she going? What is her name?

knottybynature said...

We have a hat lady at the store I worked for. She would yell at people who weren't really there, complain that the water spraying over the fresh vegetables was secretly poisoning her children, spray lysol over everything she went to touch (and after she touched it), then even tell people that the devil was contaminating her laundry soap and could she please trade it out for one in the back of the shelf?

Some people are just better left to their own devices.