Do Not Disturb

I saw a disturbing scene the other morning.

It wasn’t a typical day for me. I didn’t leave my house and drive to work as usual. Instead, I headed in the opposite direction to an all-day class. And on the way to my class, I made a quick stop at City Market, the downtown location.

I was feeling carefree and content as I got back into my vehicle. Though I wouldn’t be there, I knew all was in order for my students to have a productive day without me. I had caffeine and a banana and a little something sweet in hand for breakfast. And I was looking forward to a worthwhile day of professional learning.

I didn’t particularly want my happy morning to be disturbed.

There was honking. Different rhythms, different tones. Different horns being played by several different drivers.

The honking was coming from 1st Street. First street has four lanes and is quite busy, especially at 7:45 in the morning, but when I looked up it was at a standstill.

A man, in a grungy tan coat, was staggering through the middle of the street. It was apparent that he wasn’t trying to get to the other side of the street, necessarily; he didn’t seem to realize that he was in the street. His gaze, skittish yet glazed, flitted from the direction of the honking horns, down to his seemingly unruly feet, to his left hand, which danced in front of his face like a suspended marionette appendage, the cigarette there powerless in connecting with his waggling head.

And behind him.  He kept glancing behind him. Not from where he had come, which was too distant, both physically and in his memory, but to the street. There was something on the street that, unlike the traffic and his wayward body parts and that cigarette, was better able to maintain his attention, his focus.

And then I saw it.

A dog. His dog.

He was a short-haired heeler mix, dressed smartly in a clean puffy jacket zipped down his spine. I watched as he wandered toward one of the stopped cars, the passenger side, and looked longingly at the window, hoping, perhaps, to get in, to be taken somewhere, somewhere other than this currently confusing situation.

I considered, briefly, opening my door and calling him into my vehicle. But that would leave the man alone.

After a few seconds, he turned and trotted after the man, following him faithfully.

The man stepped onto the sidewalk and into the shrubs that lined the parking lot.

Really? I thought, as the man slogged through the bushes. You have to go through the vegetation instead of around? And then I knew. Any compassion I may have initially had for this human being had turned to anger and complete disappointment.

It was the dog. It was one thing to get himself into this situation, to be so messed up so early in the morning, to not know where he was or where he was going, to put his life at risk as he wandered aimlessly through the city, across busy streets. But to get a helpless being involved? To bring a creature as wonderful as the dog into this mess?

The man mangled several of the dense, low-lying branches of the bushes before he got hung up and tripped, falling onto his left shoulder to the pavement of the parking lot. The dog leaped the span of shrubbery and went straight to the man, sitting down near him, nuzzling his face. The man grasped the dog’s head and used it as leverage to get himself into a sitting position.

And that’s the last I saw of them–a man and a dog sitting face-to-face on the pavement of a grocery store parking lot–as I drove away, away to my own day.

Disturbed. Downright disturbed.

Who was this man? What was his story? Was he always so out of it or was the majority of his time spent lucid and thinking and feeling? What about the dog? Were his needs being met? Was he getting fed? Was anyone going to take that jacket off him once the weather changed? Did he feel loved? Was he getting the same love that he was giving? (Does any dog?)

And what in the world was going on with my feelings? Why did the concern I felt, initially, for this human being dissipate so quickly and turn to anger? Was it easier that way? Easier to be angry than caring? Did being angry make it easier to drive away and continue on with my day?

Disturbed. What right did this guy have to disturb my otherwise wonderful morning?

What a horrible question. What right did I have to be upset with a slight disturbance, when his entire life might be one big disturbance? To himself, to society.

Most of us don’t want to be disturbed, including me. It’s easier to not look, not see, to just drive away and get to a place where my mind can quickly become preoccupied with something else. Something more normal, less perplexing and muddled.

And I find that terribly disturbing, exponentially more disturbing than the scene that disturbed me in the first place.

I suppose that’s what’s supposed to happen. We get disturbed and if we get downright disturbed, or get disturbed often enough, then we might actually force ourselves to notice, to really see what’s going on, to take action.

I am grateful for those who are there already, who are able to recognize their feelings, who are willing to take the time and make the effort to do something.

I am disturbed that I don’t feel that pressure. Am I selfish? Uncaring? Powerless? Too busy? I’m busy working, teaching children, raising my own. Busy doing what I can to make sure others don’t end up in the same shoes, the same street, the same parking lot as this man.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good answer. I’m busy making sure others get a good start in life. It’ll stop my disturbance meter for now.

But it’s definitely gone up a notch.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. writeejit
    Feb 02, 2014 @ 16:22:44

    A really thoughtful post, and a theme that resonates with most of us, I hope. Your description of the man and dog was also worthy of a novel opening–you had me hooked and I wanted to read more of what had led them to that sad state.


  2. wbdeejay
    Feb 02, 2014 @ 19:16:06

    I think you did well to realise and acknowledge your disturbance and to counter it. As you say, some people are further along that path while many others haven’t even stepped upon it yet. I understood your concern for the dog, I too can feel that way about any animal that is under human influence. 🙂


  3. randee
    Feb 02, 2014 @ 19:59:08

    That’s another disturbing thing. Why, as humans, are we more concerned about the well being of animals than people, than children even?


  4. gapark
    Feb 03, 2014 @ 09:47:27

    It’s that unconditional love animals have–they keep forgiving the injustices…most of the time…until they don’t. Your post has certainly disturbed MY morning…:) When someone has that level of concern for the helpless creatures as you do (and my sister…) you just want to take them all in and nurture and care for them yourself, which just is not feasible. You do what you can in your sphere of influence. Being disturbed is ok, when it leads us to positive action. One step at a time. I feel like I’m rambling…this is a lot to think about!


    • randee
      Feb 04, 2014 @ 17:50:41

      Well, I appreciate your rambling. You are so right – it’s a lot to think about. I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it if I hadn’t written about it. Now, it’s forever etched in my mind (and a few others as well).


  5. Sandy Perry
    Feb 04, 2014 @ 15:08:32

    Sometimes I think we get overwhelmed and just don’t know how to fix the problems. Or else, we worry that this disturbed person will harm us in some way. It’s sad that you have to consider your own personal safety instead of the well-being of another person.


    • randee
      Feb 04, 2014 @ 17:46:46

      That is so true. Often, I don’t step into a situation because I know it probably wouldn’t be safe and therefore would be unwise. That is too bad, isn’t it?


  6. theclocktowersunset
    Feb 06, 2014 @ 16:01:37

    You never know what will set your mind on a particular journey. 😉


    • randee
      Feb 07, 2014 @ 19:52:35

      Nor when. I could see a similar scene on a different day and perhaps not even notice.
      Thanks for reading.


      • theclocktowersunset
        Feb 07, 2014 @ 20:14:13

        You’re welcome of course Randee, I hope your committee work is coming along well. I had two impacted wisdom teeth with cavities and unknown jaw bone infections extricated today. So yippee, hopefully no more pain! I’ve been laying low so haven’t been a good wordpresser recently haha. Trying to get back on the horse so I guess this is my note to the teacher. Maybe I’ll be back in action at full steam soon. 🙂 Your posts are always insightful sincere and thought provoking, I’m glad to be feeling better enough I can read more now. 🙂

      • randee
        Feb 08, 2014 @ 10:01:25

        Ouch! You still have wisdom teeth at your age? Are there two more that are going to have to be dealt with? I haven’t been reading or writing much myself lately either. I hope I didn’t miss any posts of yours. Lots going on and some pain of my own, too. I’ll probably write about it at some point. Good to know you’re alive. Heal, you hear?

      • theclocktowersunset
        Feb 08, 2014 @ 12:40:03

        No, they got the other two upstairs about 12 years ago.

  7. Trackback: Meanwhile… Another Disturbance | A String of Pearls
  8. Beauty Along the Road
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 19:18:29

    Interesting, the themes and questions that went through your mind. The man (probably homeless and mentally ill, or on drugs) was only the trigger for the process your mind sent you through….


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