When I find myself feeling perplexed, mystified and even angered by the behavior of people who are doing things that are beyond my control, I go back to an incident on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Minneapolis that I thought was going to end tragically. We were sitting at a table outside Bob’s Java Hut, a popular destination for motorcyclists from around the metro area, having coffee on a busy Saturday morning when a young woman arrived on the scene with her unleashed dog. It didn’t take long before the high level of activity outside the coffee shop, combined with the traffic on Lyndale Avenue started to agitate and confuse the animal, who appeared to be relatively young and still in the process of being trained. While his owner was busy socializing, he escaped her attention and suddenly darted out into the busy street. Squealing tires could be heard as drivers braked and swerved to avoid hitting him as he miraculously made it across the street. The commotion got the attention of the dog’s owner, who panicked and started to call for him while he stood visibly confused on the other side of the street as cars continued to whiz past.
Quickly and without fanfare, a guy sitting next to us with his girlfriend got up, waited for a momentary break in the traffic and then swiftly crossed the street and nabbed the dog by the collar. He waited for another break in the traffic and then calmly led the dog back across the street and without judgment returned him to his owner, who thanked him. When he sat back down I complimented him on his quick and decisive action while also marveling at his restraint for not unleashing with an angry lecture, which I personally thought the dog’s owner deserved. He simply replied that with certain people you know it’s probably not going to matter what you say, so it just isn’t worth it. I can only hope that his good deed and restraint had a positive impact on the future behavior of the dog’s owner, but who knows? His actions certainly made a lasting impression on me.
I don’t believe the young woman was acting with any malicious intent when she decided to disobey a citywide ordinance and walk her dog along a busy street without a leash. However, given all of the variables in play at a busy intersection, she did create a potentially dangerous situation that could have resulted in negative repercussions for her dog and many people beyond herself.
I realize that there were conflicting messages and contrary information concerning masks in the beginning stages of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States, but I still think it’s profoundly disappointing that the simple act of wearing a face covering to help control the spread of a potentially deadly virus became politicized.
In countries around the world that have had to deal with previous infectious disease outbreaks (like SARS) wearing a mask in public is considered a sign of respect and altruism, not weakness. A recent article in The Atlantic titled “Refusing to wear a mask is an empty act of defiance,” offered the perspective that masks were not empty symbols but tools of public health. The article also provided survey results showing the proudly maskless to be societal outliers and that a majority of Americans participating in the survey agreed that wearing a face mask when in public and near other people was a sign of respectfulness. I personally view the act of wearing a mask as a minor inconvenience when you consider the alternative.
In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, White Bear Lake Mayor Jo Emerson has issued an emergency proclamation requiring face coverings in indoor areas accessible to the public effective 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 17. I respect her decision.
Paul Dols is photojournalist/website editor for Press Publications. He can be reached at 651-407-1238 or firstname.lastname@example.org.