Today I made a very important discovery about myself that knocked my socks off. I was wearing boots, as I do every day, and the impact of the discovery was so powerful that each sock actually crept up the length of its host boot and then, unable to contain itself, burst out of the boot top along with sparkly confetti and harp music.
This discovery happened on a walk to the F train, as have many other important discoveries throughout history — the wheel, America, and screen legend Lana Turner among them. I was walking with a spring in my step, happy to be alive and in such a nice chocolate brown cashmere sweater as soft and warm as a kitten freshly fluffed in the dryer, when a young man approached me walking his medium-sized reddish dog. Just as my mouth was about to shape itself into a smile at him and the dog, the guy turned his head to his right and spit onto the curb. My mouth halted the smile immediately and set itself into a grimace of disgust. Still, the dog approached.
I cannot let a dog pass by me without acknowledging it with at least a smile, and many times with an accompanying “Hi, puppy!” This is a given. However, another “given” of mine is that I detest the act of spitting and consider it an unforgivable act. (This, of course, does not include spitting after the act of toothbrushing or any service at the dentist’s office. I will refrain from offering my opinion regarding spitting after a certain sexual act, because this is, after all, a family website.) I put public spitting right up there on the You Fucking Slob scale with public excretion, and would not even spit to put out a fire that engulfed a filthy spitter. So what was I to do?
If I smiled, the guy would think that pretty women in nice cashmere sweaters find him attractive enough to earn their smiles. (Because of course a guy walking a dog will think that your smile, although directed at his dog, is also meant, in part, for him.) But if I didn’t smile, I would break one of my ironclad rules and feel very sorry for the dog, because all dogs (yes, all dogs … even the mangiest, rattiest, saddest of dogs) deserve smiles. After all, it wasn’t the dog’s fault that the guy holding his leash was an expectorant menace.
I had to think fast, though, because the gap between them and me was closing. I drew up a speedy “pros and cons” chart, punched a few numbers into the calculator I keep on a lanyard on my belt-loop, and made my decision: I smiled. My smile had to pass over the guy to get to the dog, who was closer to the curb, and I knew that residue of that smile would attach itself to the guy on its way to its target … but I smiled anyway. The dog deserved it (just by dint of being a dog).
The discovery I made was that my love for dogs is stronger than, and thus overrides, my hatred of people’s disgusting habits. And if you are not familiar with that special brand of hatred, all you have to do is poke around my archives a little. There’s no shortage there.
So what’s next? Tomorrow at the gym, when someone inevitably disgusts me for any number of reasons while on a nearby treadmill, I will smile anyway, provided his dog is panting alongside him on an adjoining one.