Dear The Sophist,
It’s been painful to see a lack of sophistry in this space the last few weeks—it’s like no one is right about anything anymore. Fortunately, I’m right about something that popped up lately, and I’m hoping for some stylish confirmation of it.
A friend who recently got a dog says that he never throws his poop into other people’s trash cans. Ever! He lives on the Upper East Side, so it’s not like this is a convenient decision for him. It’s a principled one he has to make over and over again.
I think this is preposterous. I live in the Brooklyn brownstone belt and while I usually just throw the poop bag into the first trash can I encounter, I do relish when I see a snooty, one-off can I can befoul with a little bag of shit.
If your dwelling is fancy enough for its own trash can, it can take one tied-off bag of feces, right? Am I not redistributing the dog poop away from the city trash cans—where it takes up primo space, not to mention open-air stench, as those collections have gone down during the pandemic—into the cans of the rich?
My Bags Are Tied
Dear Doggy Bagger,
Substantively, there’s not a lot The Sophist can criticize about your approach to dog-waste disposal. Symbolically, though, there’s only so much burden a little plastic bag can hold, and you appear to be putting yours under a lot of strain—it is, somehow, simultaneously supposed to be a tidy, well-sealed act of civic responsibility and a befouling gesture of defiance and class warfare. You wish for your poop sack to disappear uneventfully into the municipal waste stream while you also, metaphorically, want to light it on fire on your friend’s welcome mat, ring his doorbell, and run away.
The Sophist can’t help wondering how this particular argument got started in the first place. You and your friend have staked out what you take to be different moral or ethical positions, but which sound—from over here on the West Side—as if they are simply different geographical positions. If my apartment allowed dogs, and I were to take one for a walk in my neighborhood, I cannot clearly picture where I might find someone else’s private garbage can to throw the poop into. There are the public sidewalk cans, and there are the looming walls of garbage bags laid out on the sidewalk by the apartment buildings, and…what would I even do, hop the railing outside someone’s townhouse on a cross street to search for wherever they might keep a trash can?
Your Brooklyn habit of measuring out your neighbors’ social status through the placement of their garbage receptacles is so alien to me that I wouldn’t even deign to pass judgment on it. So, too, is this position that you attribute to your Upper East Side friend, in which he allegedly feels it’s an exercise of principle to use the widely available and convenient public wastebaskets for throwing away the waste that he and his dog produce when they are in public.
With that said: you are right. Your friend is also right. Every theory about how to dispose of dog poop is equally valid and correct, so long as it involves making sure you truly and finally dispose of the dog poop. Pick up the poop, because you are living in a civilized society, where other people have to walk. Always pick it up, even if it is raining or snowing. A little rain or snow, or even a lot of rain or snow, doesn’t magically make poop cease to exist.
Pick up the poop, and wrap it tightly and securely, whichever receptacle you place it in—so that whichever garbage crew eventually empties the can (the only actual audience for your efforts) finds it no more messy or offensive than anything else they’re handling.
Walk with righteousness, but keep one eye on the pavement,
THE SOPHIST is here to tell you why you’re right. Send your questions to [email protected], and get the answers you want.