Friday, July 20, 2012

Communism, Civility, and Dog Crap

I saw the most astounding thing last night here in Bucharest. (I summer here with my Romanian-American wife.)

I saw a woman walking a dog. And she picked up after her dog after he (it was a he) took a crap.

Now, if you're an American reader, you may be wondering what the big deal is. That's what dog owners do, right? 

Well, the fact is, I'm old enough (I'm 46) to remember a time when it was not always so. 

And it certainly isn't so here in Romania. Walking any simple sidewalk is like traversing a mine field of dog crap. And most of it is from the strays that they inexplicably tolerate here. They actually go to the trouble of tagging strays for who knows what reason. But this year I'm seeing a strikingly higher number of pet owners in this country. This is accompanied by pet food stores all over the place.

Anyway, back to the point. What's ultimately most surprising is that America became a country that picks up its dog crap. I mean, picking up dog crap can't be fun (I'm a cat person, they make it easier). But yet we somehow in America created a new ethic wherein you just wouldn't dare have anyone see you walk your dog and leave the crap where the dog set it.

When I brought up this issue at the social event to which we were headed when I spied this miraculum, I was met with the tired explanation Romanians have for every imperfection in their society.

"It's because we lived under Communism."

You know, if anything, living under a Totalitarian Regime should have produced a Romanian society that was a model of civility.

As an American, I am baffled daily in this country at the lack of the most basic of courtesies.

And I am officially calling you all out. How many centuries from now do you intend to excuse rank rudeness in this country because of Communism? 

I'm going to state a thesis. I grant that people here had to reinvent themselves and their society in 1989. But the ruder elements of any society are intimidating. And the brighter lights shrunk into the shadows. And, in fact, emigrated. Communism didn't do this. Rather, the post-Communist malaise has created the perfect storm for rudeness to rule.

Anyway, back to America. Why are we a country that picks up our dog crap and quit smoking?

Look, I know we aren't perfect. But we are a country where, if you smile and say 'Good Morning', no one wonders what's wrong with you. And in my travels I've observed that's not the norm.