Yellow Volkswagens and brown flags


I've talked before about Yellow Volkswagen Syndromeâ„¢, that phenomenon where bringing something to mind seems to all of a sudden bring it into your field of vision, and often.

When I wrote about it in this post last year, I talked about Yellow Volkswagen Syndromeâ„¢ as an invocation: if I put it out there that Help Is Everywhere, it will be. I could just as easily swap out "Help" for "Beauty," "Love," "Hilarity," or anything else I was particularly in need of. In the same way that keeping a gratitude journal helps maintain a heightened awareness of how fortunate one is, keeping any particular quality top of mind ("Grace" would be a good one, these days) helps one see how much of the good stuff is all around all of us everywhere, all the time.

The BF and I were talking about this on a walk yesterday. There's a beautiful path around the reservoir in his neighborhood, and many, many people exercise their dogs on it. Most of them pick up the piles of poop their dogs deposit along the way, but a few don't, and guess what you notice? It's kind of hard not to, really, since there it is, in the middle of the path, usually, standing out in stark contrast to the composite the path itself is made of.

When you see more than one of these on a walk, it has a curious effect, that goes like this:

"I can't believe all these people don't pick up after their dogs, it's disgusting!"

One sentence, but it's stuffed with information to be, as the anthropologists put it, unpacked.

  1. That I'm in a state of disbelief Am I really? Or is it contempt? The "it's disgusting" tag at the end argues for the latter
  2. That the errant poop is the result of owner negligence There are not many wild dogs running loose in this highly dog-friendly neighborhood; with so many dog lovers, any stray dog is picked up pretty quickly, and either turned over to a rescue organization or held until the owner can be found. There are wild coyotes, however, as well as a lot of other local fauna, some of it quite well-fed and large (it's a reasonably tony neighborhood with good people pickins and plenty of fatty squirrels, to boot).
  3. That a lot of people are being negligent After some brief discussion, The BF and I came to the conclusion that while we were certainly seeing more poop lying around than we'd like, most people were probably picking up after their dogs. Like I said, this is a really dog-friendly neighborhood; if most people were being negligent, there'd be more shit than path.

None of these are particularly excellent thoughts to be wandering around with, but I'd argue that third point is the hardest to spot and the most potentially damaging. It spreads like a cancer and affects every part of my worldview. I eye each dog-walking neighbor suspiciously, guilty until proven innocent, waiting to see if they pick up the poop. So far, they all have, and really, I have no idea what I'd have said if they hadn't: "Shame on you" or even a direct "Hey, pick that up...please!" both feel Citizens Arrest-y and weird.

And of course, my hatred refuses to remain only with the errant dog owners. It starts to creep into all other aspects of my life, until I'm looking at the world through shit-colored glasses.

One of my recurring mantras with my actor peeps when I'm telling them about marketing and why they should bother with it is "Control what you can." It's not really my business to change the people who view the sidewalk as their dog's personal toilet; talk about wasting one's time and annoying the pig.

Instead, I'm going to let each pile sighting remind me that hey, overall, I have it pretty good here on this fine path I'm walking.

And I'm going to bring an extra bag or two. Or ten...


Image by gregg o'connell via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.