I live on a quiet street, or at least I used to think so. Then I got a dog. Now every night it seems we are living in Grand Central Station.
Here's a typical breakdown of a trip outside. Imagine, if you will, that it is the coldest night of the winter. Not too hard for me to imagine; we've had about five coldest nights of the winter so far. ("This is the coldest night of the winter!" Two days later: "God! That's even colder!" A week after: "Damn it to hell, this is the coldest night EVER!" etc.) Now, commence with odd pacing and whining. From the dog, not me. My whining comes later.
Mrs. K: Honey, he needs to go out. Can you take him?
Me: Okay, sure. (*dramatic sigh*) Come on, Tralfaz.
(Tralfaz, who cannot be trusted out in the fenceless yard by himself, is thrilled for the chance to go out, even though it's become so cold we're now measuring temperature in Kelvins.)
Me: Okay, Tralfaz, go potty.
(Suddenly the sedan belonging to the Athleticson Family comes tearing down the block. Tralfaz loses his train of thought, despite the fact that two minutes ago his bladder was going to go off like an IED. The car whips into the driveway and jerks to a halt in front of the garage. The door opens and Mr. Athleticson can be heard yapping into his cell.)
Mr. A: Good. Good. See that you call them in the morning. Don't tell him about the upgrades yet.
(Tralfaz stands at attention. Mr. A continues to yap up the driveway to his mailbox. Tralfaz looks like he's frozen solid now, except his large nostrils open and shut, open and shut. Possibly he's determining what Mr. A had for lunch seven hours ago. I can no longer with any great accuracy feel my own fingers.)
Me: Come on, Fazzy, get the lead out.
(Mr. A finally gets back in his car and the garage door opens. Tralfaz watches, still not moving a muscle, as the car glides in. Only once the garage door has shut completely does the dog move again.)
Me: Thank you for alertness in protecting us against the menace of the neighbors. Now pee, damn it.
(Tralfaz wanders off the path into the snow. Sniff. Sniff. My feet are going numb. Tralfaz starts eating a chunk of ice.)
Me: Focus, damn it!
(Tralfaz finishes his refreshing ice and remembers that he came out to empty his bladder, which by now must be turning his eyeballs yellow. He manages one pace before another sound his heard. This is the minivan belonging to the Destractiones Family three houses up. No member of the Destractiones can do anything quietly. They floss loudly. The minivan grinds to a halt and so does Tralfaz. He watches. The doors fly open and the sound of teenagers whining pierces the night. Tralfaz sits down on the ice and settles in. This could be good.)
Me: Not now, Gladys Kravitz. Get back to work.
Male teen: --left it out and then they FORGOT it!
Female teen: --think of anything so stupid--
Mrs. Destractiones: (unintelligible warnings and directions)
(A cold gust of wind from the Ninth Circle of Hell sweeps over suburbia.)
(Young Distractiones male is instructed to bring trash can up to the curb; does so, singing, as loudly as he can, while the others slowly make their way indoors, bickering. Tralfaz watches, rapt: Will the male actually finish his mission and get to the front door first? Could be a dead heat, which would be the only heat about in the neighborhood.)
Me: Come on, Tralfaz! Get off the stick!
(Distractiones Family huddles inside, the boy a disappointing third. After the door closes and the dog slowly becomes convinced that it will not reopen, he rises to his feet.)
Me: Last chance, Tralfaz. POTTY! (Feeling like an ass for barking "POTTY!" like a Nazi sergeant in a war picture. "SCHNELL! SCHNELL!")
(The pickup truck belonging to Bat Fastird a couple of doors down is suddenly seen coming along the street.)
Me: INSIDE. NOW.
(Dog is dragged inside. Five minutes later his whining will result in his return outside. Which is right about the time the Athleticson Family minivan, Mrs. Fastird's hatchback, a cop car, two guys racing each other up the block, a miscellaneous SUV, a clown car, and a frigging brass band all get set to come down my street. I start plotting a move to northernmost Alaska. It would be quieter and it couldn't be much colder.)