Left holding the bag

Consider This...

July 23, 1996|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,SUN STAFF

Not too long ago, the city fathers of Paris, France, ordered dog-owning citizens to clean up after their pets. Paris is a city with lots of dogs, so the problem is everywhere underfoot, so to speak.

The Parisian dog owners responded to the order with much the same alacrity as the ocean's waves did to King Canute. Such are the French: normally slavish to authority, but now and then rebellious.

Baltimore also has a lot of dogs. Baltimore also has an ordinance similar to the Parisian one. But Baltimoreans, in this regard, have little of the rebel's spirit.

Baltimoreans pick up after their dogs. They carry little plastic bags out on the morning walk. Often, they are the bags newspapers are delivered in.

You can tell what people are reading by the color of the bag they whip out of their coats to perform that most noisome of civic duties. This paper arrives in a yellow bag. The New York Times comes in blue. The Wall Street Journal is delivered in clear plastic.

At first I thought one might discern something of the dog owners from their bags. I did. I noticed that many people who carry bags with them during the daylight leave them behind when they go out at night.

I also thought that people who had expensive subscriptions to out-of-town newspapers would have the more exotic breeds. Purebreds, perhaps. I thought wrong. The park in my neighborhood hosts a mixed array of canines: mongrels mostly, and an oversupply of Labrador retrievers, most of them going to fat. From that I concluded that preference in newspapers does not dictate dog choice. And vice versa.

I did notice one Wall Street Journal reader walking a funny-looking dog of a bluish color. But I was unable to ascertain if it was deliberately bred to look that way, or if the blue dog was one of nature's mistakes.

Further thought on the matter called to mind the adage that nothing is deader than yesterday's news, which is why yesterday's paper has traditionally been destined for the wrapping of fish and lining the bottoms of canary cages.

Nobody keeps canaries these days, but what's going on out there does seem to me a slight to the venerable craft of journalism. Who came up with the idea of putting newspaper bags to this purpose? Was it a traitorous hint from Heloise?

Some dog owners carry no bags. They are not necessarily scofflaws, simply people driven to make a choice between two embarrassments: the chagrin attendant on the act of picking up after a dog (what must an animal think of anybody who does that?), and the shame of being seen going bagless into the park by all the law-abiding neighbors. These people simply find the former far more difficult to bear than the latter.

They also may think that one can carry fastidiousness too far. You don't have to be French to appreciate that.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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