Taking the Little Black Dog for a Walk
The man had heard, that exercise could help. Taking the little black dog for a walk, he had heard, would tire it out. Maybe if he was especially lucky, and took a particularly circuitous route, it would get lost. A little respite from the yapping and bothersome beast would be very welcome.
The man decided a trip to the post office was in order. To see if the universe had deigned to send him any post. Putting his earphones in, and pressing play on one of his favourite podcasts, he set off. The little black dog following close behind.
The busy suburban streets were full of traffic. Trucks belching noise and noxious black smoke. Seeing a bus the man pondered where the people were going, and if they were having a better day than he. Did any of them have their own black dogs, he wondered.
The man had made some distance between himself and his black dog when he came to a pedestrian crossing. Pushing the button, he waited impatiently for the lights to change. Not for the first time, he marvelled at the power of a red light and social convention to stop traffic. In the time it took the lights to change, the little black dog had caught up, and sat at his heel.
Dashing across the road he caught the black dog unaware and was able to gain some distance from it once again. The black dog was persistent and kept him in sight for the remainder of the journey to the post office.
Standing in front of the wall of boxes at the post office, the man felt a sense of anticipation, the key for his post office box in his hand. At that moment in time he felt like this was his own little re-enactment of the famous ‘Schrödinger’s cat’ experiment. Except that this version didn’t involve radioactive, and possibly deceased felines.
Taking a deep breath, he slid the key into the lock. In one quick, smooth motion he turned the key and opened the little door. The cold air that he released blasted him in the face. The air conditioning in the post office was clearly set to Arctic temperatures and storm force winds he thought.
Sadly, the box was empty. The universe hadn’t sent him any letters or parcels this week.
Letting his breath out in a sigh of disappointment, the man closed the post office box and withdrew the key. He had to admit that he did feel a sense of relief that there wasn’t a very angry cat that glowed in the dark in the post office box instead. Or worse, a poisoned, deceased, and radioactive cat. Looking down, he saw that the little black dog was at his heel once more.
Adjusting his earphones he decided to take the long way home. Taking one last look at the post office, he set off. Incorporating as many changes in direction in his route as he could, the little black dog following close behind.
Over time the man came to a zebra crossing, and waited patiently for the traffic to stop. Many cars didn’t stop and breezed through. The drivers were either in a hurry, or completely unaware of the road rules. It made him wonder what the critical difference was between a pedestrian crossing with lights, and a zebra crossing made of painted stripes.
Both crossings relied on social conventions. Neither crossing incorporated a physical barrier to stop the cars from hitting him as he crossed the road. It was undeniable though that a red light was much more effective at stopping traffic than painted lines on the road. Eventually a motorist stopped, and with a wave and a smile for the driver the man continued his walk.
As time passed, the man took note his surroundings. Observing the difference between people who cared for their front gardens, and those that didn’t. Some businesses had closed for the day, while others remained open. So many people were going about their busy lives. At the mid-point of his walk he heard a blaring car horn. The man looked up, momentarily drawn out of his own little world, to see an accident between two cars narrowly avoided.
The man didn’t meet many people on his walk around the neighbourhood. Those few that he did meet, he gave a shy smile to as they passed. Some returned the simple greeting, others scowled or looked away. It was particularly embarrassing when he laughed out loud at a particularly funny joke made by one of the hosts of the podcast. The couple who were passing him at that exact moment, gave him a strange look.
In time, the man ran out of path to follow. His walk had come to end, as all things must. Stopping outside his house he reached into his pocket for his keys. Looking down he saw the little black dog at his heel once more. Only it wasn’t as black as it was when he started, and was no longer yapping and disturbing his thoughts.
Taking the earphones out of his ears, he stopped the podcast and went inside. The man decided that he might try this again. Maybe, just maybe, the little black dog and he could come to an understanding.