I am out for my regular Wednesday morning walk, and within minutes, I sense something is uncomfortably different. Thoughts of old cowboy movies go racing through my mind.
“It’s quiet,” as one of the “blue coats” in a cavalry patrol surrounded by Indians used to say. To which another would reply, “Too quiet.”
I’d been taking these walks for months now. But this morning, for the first time ever, there is nobody else on the street. I am used to seeing people out there, walking their dogs. Today, there is nothing. No people. No dogs.
This was entirely atypical. During my previous walks, walks that, out and back, cover maybe a mile or a little longer, I would pass at least a dozen people, walking their dogs. One dog, two dogs. The last time out, I saw a woman walking five dogs.
I almost asked her, “Are you a dog walker, or do you just like dogs?”
But I didn’t, for fear it may be the latter, and she might infer disapproval. I just kept walking, hoping my eyes hadn’t revealed my disapproval despite me.
A number of explanations come to mind for the complete canine absence on the Santa Monica sidewalks that morning. Perhaps, it is “National Keep Your Dog Indoors Day”, and I just hadn’t heard about it. Though, on rethinking, I find this possibility extremely unlikely. “Why would they institute “National Keep Your Dog Indoors Day”, an event that would inevitably evolve into “National I Pooped On Your Carpet Day”?
Then, residing at the “Insecure” end of the “Confidence-Self Doubt” continuum, it came to mind that it might possibly be me. Somehow, I’d been throwing the dogs off, and they had confronted their masters, individually or in a pack, and had insisted on not being taken outside when I’m on the street, explaining,
“One look at him, and I can’t do my business.”
Then it hit me. The real answer. Which, thankfully, had nothing to do with my being a dog poop inhibitor.
For reasons of no significance, that morning, I had begun my walk fifteen minutes early.
That was all there was to it. It was a timing issue. I had set out on my walk earlier than usual, while the neighborhood dogs remained inside, holding it in, until their masters snapped on their leashes, and released them mercifully to the outdoors fifteen or so minutes down the line.
The dog owners apparently had an habitual routine. As did I. I had deviated from mine that morning. They had not.
Which gets me thinking, an easy task, as there are no great looking dogs (or their masters) out that morning to command my attention.
For better or worse, I take much of my inspiration and perspective on life from the lyrics of Disney songs. To me, a dream is a wish your heart makes. And I too think I’d have seen about everything, when I see an elephant fly.
In this case, the applicable lyrics come from “Beauty And The Beast”:
“Just a little change, small to say the least…”
An insignificant change and, as a result, the world is entirely different. A slight alteration in my “Wednesday Walk” routine and, as the song says earlier “…unexpectedly”,
Not a dog on the street.
Imagine if I always left at that earlier time. Strangers, curious about our neighborhood would ask,
“Any dogs on your street?”
And how would I answer?
“Not a one.”
Based on my regular routine, sending me off fifteen minutes later?
“Any dogs on your street?”
“Are you kiddin' me? The place is a frickin’ kennel!”
Two diametrically opposite answers. Products, entirely, of timing.
As the Disney song suggests, a “little change” can change everything.
“If I had stayed at that party five minutes longer, I’d have met the love of my life.”
“If I had left the house five minutes earlier, I would never have been hit by that bus.”
I am considering what other nuggets I can glean from this illuminating experience, when my unencumbered mental processes are commandeered by my sneakers.
Which, I am suddenly aware, squeak noticeably with every step I take.
It was not some high-pitched, rodent-with-its-tail-in-a-trap kind of squeak. Nor was it a groaning, metallic squeak that can be spritzed away with some WD-40. How would I describe it?
It sounded like I was walking on ducks.
Having solved the dog-absence mystery, I proceeded to my destination, pondering – and noisily accompanied by – the squeaks.
On second thought, maybe that’s what’s keeping the dogs inside.