Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dog business and Depth Perception

Took the dog for a run at a park on the island. She loves being off-leash, and if there are no other dogs present, I let her go to frisk and frolic, and do what we euphemistically call her “business.” Being the responsible, good, guilt-laden citizen that I am, I always take a plastic bag and go pick up her business, tie a knot in the bag and throw it in a trash can. Almost always. Sometimes the dog is in such a wiggling hurry that she runs out ahead of me, and from a distance of forty or fifty feet away I see her going into the characteristic hunch of the business dog. I groan, because now I’m going to have to look in the grass for the business. I look for a place marker close to her to guide me. Today it was a bright orange autumn leaf sticking up above the grass. I figured the dog was about six feet north-northwest of the leaf. I got my bag and set off for the spot. Which brings me to a True High School Story. At my school all sophomores were required to take a course called Life Science. This class covered health and driver’s ed. Health was a quick once over of body parts. Driver’s ed was the book-learning part of learning to drive. My class was taught by Mr. Haney, who was a coach and teacher. He was not a warm and cuddly guy and his main claim to fame was being able to walk across the gym floor on his hands. One day we walked into class and Mr. Haney had set up two unfamiliar objects. The first was a box with a pedal that measured your reaction time. It flashed a light and then recorded how long it took you to stomp on the pedal. My reaction time was the worst in the class. The other object was a narrow table about eight feet long and eighteen inches wide with two plastic cars sitting on top. The cars were both attached to a single loop of string that ran through two holes in one of the narrow ends of the table. The idea was to stand at the other narrow end and pull on the loop of string. When you did that, one car moved forward and the other moved backward. We were supposed to line the two cars up next to each other. This measured our depth perception. Everyone had a go at it, and most of the kids got the cars pretty close together. Then it was my turn. I tugged the string back and forth until I thought the cars were next to each other. Mr. Haney looked at the cars, and then looked at me. “You’re done?” “Yes.” “You think the cars are next to each other?” I was getting a bad feeling, but I said, “Yes.” Mr. Haney shook his head, and said, “Litchfield, I want you to do me a favor. Whenever you are going to drive a car on the public roads, call me first so I can stay home.” Huge laugh. I walked around the table and saw that the cars were about three feet apart. So, lousy reaction time and lousy depth perception. It’s my inability to discern distance and where one object is in relation to another that pertains to today’s story. Today I walked out toward the orange leaf and got to the exact spot I had decided was six feet north-northwest of the leaf, and … there was nothing there. I stared intently at the ground, starting with what I thought was ground zero and moving in widening circles. After a few minutes of this intense inspection, the process yielded exactly bupkiss. I usually give the search a few minutes, and find nothing. It’s frustrating. I’m telling you all this as a public service. If you decide to take a walk and you see me out in the grass carrying a plastic bag, walking in circles and staring at the ground, you might want to stay clear of where I am that day. As for driving, I’ve been doing that for fifty years now. I try to drive carefully, and most of the time I don’t hit anything. Most of the time. You might want to stay clear of me on the road, too, come to think of it. Just saying.

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