On a hot Tuesday afternoon, a German shepherd met my gaze as he emptied his bowels on the Brooklyn sidewalk. The man holding the leash was large and bald and wearing a tank top. As he turned to walk away, I shot him a look.
“You gonna get that?” I asked.
Lately, I’ve been what can euphemistically be described as “under-scheduled,” and it’s leading to some troubling behavior.
Yesterday I snapped a picture of a black Mercedes G-wagon parked in a crosswalk. A few days before that, I called the health department about a bird feeder that, I’m convinced, is the source of a local rat resurgence. Last week, I stopped by my local council woman’s office to ask just how many new neighbors she expects to be moving into the roughly 647 residential buildings rising up close to where I live.
These are the actions of a man with few daily distractions like, say, child care or fantasy football, or full-time employment. In the past few years, I watched one chosen profession (magazine journalism) wither away and get handed off to cheaper, better hydrated people. Then the industry I’d fled to, software, admitted it was kidding when it said content was king and replaced its English majors with ChatGPT. Even my side hustle — producing podcasts that don’t feature sitcom stars making small talk with their friends — went sideways.
Now, for the first time in my adult life, there’s usually nowhere I have to be. No one is waiting for me to show up. No actions are required of me. No contributions are expected. And while this may sound glorious on paper, in real life it feels like a terrifying step toward extinction.
But it’s only terrifying because of who this extra time affords me to be. I don’t want to speak to the manager, exactly, but when you have too much time on your hands, it’s easy to spend that time paying attention to things you have no business paying attention to, like other people’s dog poop.