Just This Once

The man down the street said, “I’ve shoveled snow about 15 times already this winter and it was 40 degrees yesterday. Just this once, I’m not going to go out there and hack through the ice, I just can’t do it again.”

The man down the street, a different man, said, “Well at least *I’m* shoveling the snow in front of my house, unlike the guy with the sheet of ice. But shit, I’ve got a path that a person can walk down safely, just this once, I’m not going to dig out the entire sidewalk.”

The woman down the street says, “Oh Jesus. Why did the dog have to shit right here on the sidewalk? You know what? I’ve been picking up dogshit twice a day, every day, all winter. Just this once, people can walk around it. It’s one dog, one piece of shit, it’s not that big a deal.”

The mom from another neighborhood says, “I can’t even deal with the snowbanks any more. I’m gonna stop in the crosswalk and let my kid out. It’s too goddam cold, just this once I’m not gonna double park down the street and walk my kid in.”

Another mom says, “oh my GOD. That woman is parked *in the crosswalk!* What a fucking *bitch*. I know it’s cold, that’s why just this once I’m gonna double park in the bike lane in front of the ice-sheet covered sidewalk and walk my kid in. I’m going to let the car idle for the three minutes I do that because it’s cold and the inside of my car might drop a few degrees when I open the door.”

A man says, “I’ve waited through one green signal without making it through the intersection. I’ve already waited through a *whole cycle* of lights. Just this once, even though the light isn’t *yellow*, even though it’s *fully red*, and even though this is a crosswalk in front of a school, I bet I can make it through and nobody will do anything. I’ll get away with it, I won’t get a ticket.”

These people are special. The rules say you shovel your walk, you pick up your dog shit, you don’t let your car idle, you don’t park in a crosswalk, you don’t run a red light. And the reason none of us say, “there oughta be a law” is because there *is* a law. All of these things are illegal. The guy standing in front of his triple-parked, idling car, smoking a cigarette? That guy is breaking the law three ways.

I was in the park one day at noon with my two year old daughter and a man let his two dogs off the leash.  I asked him to grab his dogs, the ones that had already knocked my kid over and he said, “they’re fine”. I told him to put them on a leash and his response was, “call a cop, asshole”.

These people are special.

Now, I’m special too. Everyone told me a career in the arts would be impossible, and I said, “for *you* maybe! But I’m clearly *special*!” And I pursued a career in the arts. A career that has never once endangered anyone’s lives. A career that breaks no laws.

The fact that people have to have *a grownup* standing next to them *forcing* them to obey laws that we’ve taken the time to put through committee, voted on, created signs for and then posted them, is astonishing. “Call a cop”, they say, if you want common decency and the human instinct to protect our young. If you want your neighbors to live up to their civic duty, if you want a shared sense of responsibility, you can’t just pass laws and put up signs. YOU HAVE TO LITERALLY CALL THE POLICE.

This winter is hard on everyone. It’s hard on the people I’ve spoken about.

And then it’s hard on the woman with two children, walking slowly across the ice-floe covered sidewalks, walking in single file down the least-I-can-do shoveled sidewalk, pulling her kids around the dogshit, yanking her kids out of the way as two more cars blow through the red light, walking into traffic and slush to avoid the car parked in the crosswalk, avoiding the old men smoking in front of their idling car. It’s hard on her as well.

The difference is, she isn’t a lazy ass piece of shit with a moral compass that spins in whichever direction is “only as hard as I feel like working, and no harder, no matter who it fucks over.”