crazy guy

It was just after Rosie came home that I had “The Incident with the Dog and the Guy at Night.”

Before I tell this story, let me set the context. My daughter is a very light sleeper. Maybe its a product of how she came into the world. I do not know. But heavy tooth brushing is often enough to wake her up. And yet, she lives in a house with one the barking-est dogs around. When we got Samson, they told us he had one issue. They called him “Sir Yaps-A-Lot.” Because, he barks so much.

So, if you make noise, you might wake up Rosie. And that will unsettle Susie. And if you make enough noise to get Samson’s attention, everyone is going to wake up.

Back to my story: There was this guy.

He would let his dog roam all over our yard at night. It happened again and again. Every time it happened, it woke up Samson. I guess it mattered because then Samson would wake us up. It was always the same: I’d look out the window. There’d be some guy just lolling around in the street.

One night, I decided that I had taken enough of this.

The “guy” was outside on the street. He was tall and skinny. He was standing in a shadow, outside of the pools of light cast by the street lamps. He had on jeans and some sort of synthetic polyester vest. The kind of thing you might get at REI. He had a leash in his hand. So I guess he had picked our yard out, for special, to let his dog roam free.

I could not see his dog, but Samson was yelping and barking. It was way after midnight. I threw on a pair of jeans, went downstairs, and out into the front yard.

Our yard is terraced. There is a front porch, then an intermediate level, and then the street level. I stood on the intermediate landing, about twenty feet away.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy? Do you know what time it is?” I shouted.

Now I could see that his dog was in fact up on the middle terrace, about forty feet into our yard, doing his business in our ivy.

I was more energized than I would have expected. Maybe it’s different when you are on your own home turf. Whatever it was, I was not holding back.

“Why don’t you go s*** your dog on your own yard?” I asked him, speaking in a voice loud enough so that my neighbors could understand the nature of this confrontation.

I was fighting the good fight. It wasn’t just me against ‘this guy.’ It was me against the people who don’t bag their poop, against the huns who trample on the efforts of people to have nice homes, who flout good manners…

“Go home!” I was hot. “You know, while you are at it, bagging your own poop in your own yard, you ought to think about doing it during the day. Because a lot of people are sleeping at night.”

The guy was really defensive. “I do have a job,” was all he would say, in kind of a reedy voice, as he called his dog and left.


For about 18 months, we have been planning to redesign our kitchen. It is a great project. We are going to double its size by moving our eating area out onto the back porch. We have a good architect. We have come up with a great kitchen cabinet scheme with the staff at orange big box.

The orange big box designer is named Michael. He’s in the AIA. He’s kind of distractable, though. But he spends lots of time, and somewhat effectively, working to make little things better in a cabinet plan. Right now he is designing a place in our kitchen to hold our dog bowls. How great is that?

Susie is driving home. Michael calls her on the cell phone.

“Susie,” he says, “I am on my lunch break. I was thinking it would be great to see your kitchen, to get a better idea of the space.”

Orange big box does not send designers out to homes. Rather, they have an assistant photograph the kitchens and then the designers draft plans with the pictures. Its not a great system.

“That would be great,” says Susie. “Do you know where we live?”

She tries to spell it out for him, but its clear that he actually understands without much in the way of directions.

“I used to live there!” he says. “I used to walk my dog there all the time. Which house are you? Are you beside the crazy guy with the dog?”

“Kevin doesn’t have a dog,” says Susie. Kevin is the only guy on our side of the street who is young enough to be labeled “crazy” in a semi-threatening way. The rest of the ones nearby are women or 95-year old men.

“Are you beside that white house on the hill?” he asked.

“No,” says Susie, “we are the white house on the hill.”At that moment, Susie turned into the driveway in our backyard. The wheels hit the gravel. Rosie woke up.

“I have to get off the phone, Michael,” she says.

I guess its fortunate, at least for the flow of the conversation, that I am standing in the backyard. She hands the phone to me.”Talk to Michael about how to get to our house,” she says.

She’s a bit exasperated. I want to ask — why is Michael coming over?

“Adam,” says Michael, “we’re talking about how to get to your home.” There is an edge to his voice.

“We are the white house.”

“Adam,” says Michael. “Did you ever remember a time when there was someone out in the yard, at night, with a dog?”

I do remember that time. I still remember the guy, or at least his frame. How could I forget that moment. I sometimes talk about it, because it was an unusual moment.

For Michael to mention it, though, forces me to examine the possibilities of his question.

I feel dread. I like Michael. I have enjoyed learning about the difference in stains, wood finishes, maple or cherry, knobs, and all of the other details that make a kitchen work on a design level. Now I realize that I knew him before, in a compromising way.

Now we can laugh about it. Its just one of the wrinkles in our kitchen project. I told our contractor about the situation. He said that in his neighborhood, people get shot for doing things like that at night in other people’s yards. I think it bothered Michael a lot, because he did have bags.

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