I’m one of the biggest confrontation avoiders you could ever hope to meet.

I believe that there are always better ways to deal with problems involving the conflicting desires of other people and myself than by facing them head on. On the rare occasion that I do stand up for my convictions, I’m pretty easily convinced that I’m being unreasonable and insensitive to others.

A more charitable description of my interpersonal skills would be that I’m “diplomatic,” a trait that I come by honest, as they say, since my dad was an arms-reduction treaty negotiator before he retired to become a ski bum.

So I’m all about making compromises and coming to a peaceful solution, even if it takes time, patience, and effort.


But lately, an issue has arisen that has me rankled. One might even say that I’m incensed.

The truth is that I have been having violent fantasies: dark, lurid imaginings of vengeance on the scale of a Samurai movie or Spaghetti Western.

And the object of my twisted daydreams?

The motherfucker who keeps letting his dog shit on the tiny strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb in front of our house. The sliver of lawn on which we stand while loading our children into the minivan. Sometimes it’s not even on the grass. It’s been on the curb, on the sidewalk, and even in our overgrown flowerbed.

Seriously, who does that?

How can you watch your dog (and it’s a big one too) take a dump on the sidewalk in front of someone’s house, and be all, “Good boy, Rex! Squeeze it out, buddy! Atta boy! Don’t worry, the schmuck who owns this house will come out and scoop it up with his hands, his flesh separated from your excrement by nothing but a flimsy plastic bag, and carry it through his yard to throw it in his trash can. Just like he did yesterday, the day before, and every day for the last week. And why shouldn’t he? C’mon boy! Let’s go down the street and see what the UPS man left on Mr. Stitchel’s front step!”?

During the writing of the last few lines, I had a vivid image of myself lurking behind the fountain grass until I saw the culprit leaving the scene of the crime, and then diving off the retaining wall and beating him to a pulp. My blood pressure surged, and I could taste the sweet, sweet justice.

These are not the kinds of thoughts I normally have. And the frightening thing is that, if there were no question as to the guilt of the perpetrator–no chance that he had, say, just forgotten to bring a poop bag and was planning to pick up the turd later–I think could actually unleash my middle-aged fury on the loathsome beast. (The owner, that is. I have no problem with the dog.)

But rather than become known as the neighborhood Lawn Ninja of Dog Poop Enforcement, I decided to reach out to the misguided dog owner through a well-crafted message in the language of, um, words. Because I am a grownup.

While at the lumberyard picking up supplies for an unrelated project, I chanced upon a blank yard-sign–one that you might use to announce a garage sale or princess-themed birthday party–and threw it in my cart.

At that point my imagination turned from the righteous beating I would bestow upon this terrorist of turds, to the withering message I would leave posted in the grass.

The first draft I sketched out in my head read something like this:

Dear Inconsiderate A-hole:

Do you seriously think it’s okay to leave dogshit right in front of the door of my van, which has two baby seats inside and is full of children’s toys ? Do you think it’s okay that I have to clean up your dog’s shit every day? Or did you think there’s some city employee who comes by with a pooper scooper and picks it up?

You are either an absolute idiot, or a sociopath who needs to be locked away from society.

Very Deeply,

Up Yours

I felt a little better after reciting that one to myself a couple of times, but ultimately decided it was too wordy, and an idiot who didn’t have the sense to pick up after his dog would give up trying to read it after the first multi-syllabic word.

So I thought of a simple visual message that anyone could understand. On the left would be a little pooping doggy icon with an equals sign next to it. On the other side of the equals sign, there would be a medley of violent images: knives, guns, maces, truncheons, fists, nunchucks, and explosions.

My wife talked me out of that one. Thought it would make us seem too aggressive.

So then I thought about using passive aggression instead. Something along the lines of:

Dear Friend,

So sorry to bother you while you’re enjoying a brisk morning walk with your best friend. If it’s not too much trouble, I wonder if maybe you could take one of the bags attached to this sign and use it to clean up after your trusty companion. Normally I would be happy to scoop up a stranger’s dog’s feces, but it’s sometimes difficult when I have a toddler in each arm. I know–I’m kind of lazy and not a great multi-tasker. I guess that’s why I need your help.

Have a great day! 🙂

Again, it was a bit wordy, and maybe my seething rage was too close to the surface.