Volume 73, Number 44 | March 3 - 9, 2004

Animals: This time I wish that I could have helped

By Wilson

I take it back. Several years ago, I decided not to help other people if animals were involved. My previous interventions were never appreciated and frequently misinterpreted, often ending in disaster yet not death.

For instance, one time I had gotten off work early and decided to have lunch in the neighborhood at a nice East Village outdoor cafe. It’s a gorgeous day, everyone’s out and I’m dressed all nice. Then I notice this weak-looking girl struggling with a pit bull. (I’m positive it’s her boyfriend’s dog.) I used to go out with someone who had an American Staffordshire terrier (a pit bull) and knew full well the strength (tremendous) and mentality (noodle head) of this dog.

Suddenly this other dog (something mid-sized and in the mutt category) comes barreling around the corner, races past me like a juvenile delinquent, and seconds later, I hear barking and her screaming. So I turned around and went back to… help. In an authoritative and commanding manner I pointed at the runaway dog and boomed out “NO!” immediately causing the errant troublemaker to take off and the pit bull to sit.

As I began to somewhat proudly stroll away, the girl started to yell at me — “Why don’t you keep your dog on a leash, you bitch!” As her boyfriend’s pit bull dragged her down St. Mark’s Pl., she continued to verbally abuse me and make me feel really, really bad.

Meanwhile, all the people at Café Orlin had stopped eating and talking, and were looking at me like I was Satan. “It’s not my dog,” I whined meekly to no one in particular. “I was just trying to help.”

Last month, Jodie Lane was walking her two dogs on the snowy streets of the East Village. In a freak accident involving confusion, incompetence and ignorance, Jodie’s pets were electrocuted and she was killed. I so wished I had been there to help come to the rescue. Because I just know that in my own special, pushy and emotional way, I’d have loudly cited to everyone, including civil servants who may or may not have an inferiority complex, that I’d once read a Reader’s Digest article about a similar situation, and that I knew exactly what to do. Kind of like Missy in “Gone With the Wind.”

In pleading my cause (my need to put in and help), I’d proclaim that I was a Girl Scout, knew basic first aid, owned a toolbox and had read in full the safety instruction manuals of each and every crappy electronic appliance I’ve ever owned; that I knew more about litigation (“The Death of Common Sense,” by Phillip K. Howard, a must read), ambulance chasers, the legal process and the court system than anyone would ever want to know (having spent over eight years in Housing Court); and that I have an extensive background with electrical disasters (especially my father’s late-night drunken “bloopers, bleeps and blunders” involving deafening stereos, overflowing aquariums, short-wave radios, invasive intercom systems, electric lawnmowers used at 3 a.m. on dew-drenched grass, and various wiring and splicing projects that utilized anchors; watch out for that can of beer!). Plus, I’ve dealt with dogs all my life!

Thanks to lawyers, bureaucrats and really stupid people, we now live in a day and age where someone has to die before basic logic and common sense are considered and/or acted upon. With Jodie Lane and her dogs it sounds like several observers knew that electrocution was taking place, wanted to help and the police wouldn’t allow it. Here we are, training this city’s emergency forces for bioterrorism, nuclear attack, planes flying into buildings and various other shocking catastrophes, and they say cadets/cops aren’t taught/don’t know this elementary, vocational almost, form of common sense 101.

I just don’t get it. Every month Con Edison sends out a supposedly useful newsletter with their bill (“billing statement”). They put all this energy and effort into telling us to telephone them (thereby forcing you to have to deal with yet another utility) before we’re going to dig somewhere — hello, just how many adults living in apartments have shovels and play in the dirt? — yet haven’t once ever mentioned the dangers of junction boxes and manholes. Con Ed’s never shown a flow chart or graphic about what really goes on in their world, which — judging by the photo that ran in The Villager of the inside of the junction box that killed Jodie Lane — appears to have an infrastructure similar to scenes from the movie “Brazil,” along with product placement in the form of a potato chip bag.

And why in this day and age does Con Ed still insist on scaring the daylights out of me by making their employees go all the way up six flights of stairs to bang on my door and ring my bell like it’s the 1950s and they’re the milkman/diaper man? There just so happens to be a new crime spree going on around here right now (which, according to my very own eyes, the cops seem to be 100 percent on top of and capable of handling). But I live alone for crying out loud, and weathered the fun-filled, crack-infested East Village ’80s. I’m not opening this door for anyone, especially a scary and dangerous utility that didn’t put our power back on until dead last during last summer’s blackout. And how the hell does Con Ed get into my building anyway?

If only I had been “drawn to the light,” to E. 11th St., by a fresh, lightly salted mozzarella at Russo’s (sorry East Village Cheese, you can’t beat them there) or a slice of almond cheesecake (not on the menu) at Veniero’s…perhaps the world would be a little less bleak.


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