The uniting factor between art, humor, and community is effective communication. In fact community and communication clearly come from the same root word - common. As it sometimes happens I had a rather uncommon interaction with a fellow community member some months ago.
Please note: There is some explicit language in this post. It's vital to the story so I have to leave it in. If you're bothered by such things please read another post because, well, this one is about dog poo and dumpsters so a little f-bomb here and there is not even the worst parts of it. Thanks!
This interaction happened as I was taking my garbage and recycling out. From behind the fence beyond my building's dumpster comes a flying bag of fresh dog poo. It landed inside the dumpster as the dog whom produced the contents came past the dumpster followed by the man walking said dog.
I said excuse me to the man, calmly, politely, maybe slightly confused in my tone but certainly not angry sounding. I asked and explained, "Would you mind not put your dog waste in our dumpster please? It really begins to smell in the summer from all the people doing so. We're not allowed to have dogs, which is a shame, so while we're not, I'd prefer to not have to smell hot dog poo in the summer."
The man turned on his heels and said:
Fuck me. Yep. He didn't even preface it with an, "excuse me???" He went straight to fuck you.
I, dear reader, did not resort to such language myself. Well ... not straight away at least. I said, "Excuse me???" (someone had to right?). I told him again that we can't have dogs and that if he's going to have a dog he needs to be personally responsible for the disposal of his dog's waste, not to leave it to other people to have to deal with the stink that he's avoiding by tossing his dog's turds into other people's dumpsters.
He made some irrelevant points about it being cold right now. Then he made some very valid points about my building's dumpster (often) partially blocking the sidewalk. Something I myself have complained about and even contemplated submitting a 311 report over since my complaints were unheeded. Nonetheless, good points or not, he made them while continuing to verbally assault me with f-bombs and waving hands. His face turning red under his beanie cap until it really clashed with his bright orange ski-jacket.
Well, I did what any red-blooded (white, straight, raised on toxic masculinity) American man would do. I said, "Fuck you!" right back to him. He did the same to me again. So I said something in the heat of the moment that I now regret. I said I was going to follow him home, find out where he lives, and leave a poo on his front step."
He told me to go right ahead. Now, for the sake of this story and the subject of humor I would love to tell you that I did just that. Alas, I did not. I went to my car and drove away to do errands.
Not The End
If this were the end that would be an okay story but nothing too special but thankfully(???) that's not the end of our story dear reader. This man has taken to no longer wear his bright orange ski jacket while walking his dog and, on frequent occasion, leaving bags on dog poo on the lid of my building's dumpster.
Sometimes he does this even if the lid is open (see the picture at the top of the post).
I am a man who finds humor in the absurdities of human behavior so this doesn't strike me as something to be angry at. It strikes me as something to laugh about. It's not my dumpster. I'm also all but certainly moving out in June so I won't have to smell hot dog dookie during the hottest months of the year. I do feel bad for my neighbors for having to put up with this after I'm gone but while it's still cold outside I get a chuckle out of seeing his reminders of our conversation.
Art, Humor, and Community
I titled this art, humor, and community because, as I said at the opening they all center on the idea of communication. Art needs to communicate a message to an audience for it to be relevant. Side note: don't mistake relevancy or financial worth, they're not mutual.
Humor doesn't work if the audience doesn't get the joke. Like art, humor is a form of communication. In its highest form it communicates profound bits of wisdom in a way that the audience had probably not considered before. This is something I love about humor.
Community only exists where people interact and communicate with each other. That communication doesn't have to be verbal, it can be through a shared custom or culture but that is still communication.
I told the above story because I find the communication this man and I had to be kind of fascinating. I want to know what he was thinking, what caused him to lash out. Is he just an entitled asshole? Was he under tremendous stress and simply dysregulated? What caused his reaction to me?
I don't want to call what happened a communication breakdown. That said, it was not healthy and normal communication. To be fair, I was provoked into saying silly and not-at-all helpful things to him in response to his outburst. That's on me and I take responsibility for and feel bad about that.
I feel bad because I value communication. Communication is at the heart of everything I do and care about. It's also something hard won in terms of my understanding of said value. I have ADHD, depression, anxiety, and a whole lotta trauma. All of that made communication very hard for me. So I like to communicate and get upset when it breaks down.
There are no human-made systems without the ability to communicate their structure, use, and purpose to other people. Without communication there is no art, humor, or community and I care deeply about all three of those. I love art, humor, and community so I don't like it when I can't effectively communicate with someone else or them with me.
The bright-side of this breakdown in communication, if there is one, is that this man seems like he still wants to communicate. Well ... sorta, I guess. Why else would he continue to leave messages in the form of bags of dog poo for me like he does? I suppose that you could consider them to be some way of signaling his perceived victory. That would be fair I guess. However I don't see and in fact refuse to see a breakdown in communication as a cause for celebration.
It does tell me some more about him though. It would seem to indicate that he wasn't just overwhelmed that day. If that were the case he might feel bad. He might avoid going past here so that he'd not have to run into me and feel bad all over. That fact that he continues to leave poo at the dumpster for me would seem to indicate that he's probably not all together okay and prone to outbursts of f-bombs.
I guess that maybe I'm wrong about the bright-side being his desire to keep communicating. Still I think it's helped me to understand more about him. So you could say that not only do art, humor, and community factor into the art of communication but that dog poop can be used to effectively communicate as well.
If you have any comments or questions please hit me up on the contact page. If you want to know more about how to take care of pet waste in the City of Pittsburgh read Pittsburgh's pet regulations here. In the event that you think it wasn't that big of a deal that he threw his dogs poo away in someone else's dumpster here are a few articles about the subject (who knew?) from the Washingtonian, a poll in the Coloradoan, some discussion of the ethics by the good folks at AllOverAlbany and an entire Quora page on the subject. Who would have thought there would be so many resources on the subject!