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Tia, a 4-year-old bull mastiff, sits in a kennel at the Mayhew Animal Home in London, England on March 9, 2010. Clearly, Tia is worried. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)
Tia, a 4-year-old bull mastiff, sits in a kennel at the Mayhew Animal Home in London, England on March 9, 2010. Clearly, Tia is worried. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)

The things that go on when I’m not around Add to ...

When my doctor asked me this week, “Would you be surprised if I said pneumonia?” I wasn’t at all surprised. The relentless, jagged, dizzying cough of the past two weeks, the shortness of breath, the deep trench of fatigue – having had it once, I recognized the symptoms.

And the timing made complete sense: I only ever seem to get really sick when I’m on holiday, and this, being spring break, is my time off with the kids.

What it’s meant (in between spring-break activities) is that I’ve been spending a lot of time at home, looking out the window during daylight hours – something I don’t normally have a chance to do.

No, I don’t have binoculars or a telephoto lens. This is merely a hobby. For now.

It’s more Gladys Kravitz than Jimmy Stewart – I haven’t come up with any theories about anyone whacking a spouse. There are no scantily clad dancers. But like Jeff Jefferies, Stewart’s character in Rear Window, I am inclined to give the people I see nicknames. “Oh look, here comes three-small-dog lady.” And “Hey, there goes fast-walking Rasta dude.” Also, “Whoa, Mrs. peroxide-pyjama-pants-off-leash-German-shepherd is up early today!” Giving them names keeps things organized. It’s a long day.

What I’ve learned is that all of the things – all of the little things that drive me crazy – are happening all day long, in plain view, for everyone to see.

The first and most obvious is the number of off-leash dogs. I remain of the view that people ought to abide by the bylaws or do something to change them. On weekends, when I’m in the park across the street, I still let people know that the park is at all times an on-leash area. And they still tell me to “get lost” or “mind my own business,” just not in those words.

But at two o’clock in the afternoon, when I’m normally at work, you wouldn’t believe what goes on. Eight – no wait, nine – yes, make it nine dogs off leash running around the park all at once! And the owners in a circle in the middle of the playing field doing anything but paying attention to what their little darlings are up to. I have also discovered that this is not simply a park of convenience due to the fact that the closest off-leash park is nine blocks away and perhaps too far to walk. No, people are actually driving here to thumb their nose at the bylaw. They roll up, open the hatch and let the delighted dogs leap out, completely unaware of the ancient and faded “Please leash your dog” signs.

Another startling daytime revelation is that the school zone on my street, which is policed heavily as children make their way to school in the morning, is also policed at other times – even during spring break. It also happens to be a playground zone, which means the 30-km/h speed limit applies every day of the year from dawn until dusk. It appeared to me that the police officer pulling people over and handing out tickets was having some trouble convincing drivers that this was the case.

It also appeared to me that the moment the officer left, drivers not only instantly ignored the posted limit but felt compelled to text their friends from behind the wheel to share the happy news of their speedy and unfettered journey.

I considered asking the officer to take a walk through the park before he left, just to watch the off-leash dog owners scramble.

Cyclists? No, it’s not just the early-morning two-wheeled commuters who breeze through the red light at the pedestrian-controlled intersection. They do this with impunity all day long, sometimes right in front of the police officer with the radar gun in his hand. To be fair, some drivers are no better. I’ve seen more than one creep through the red light after the pedestrians have crossed.

And it turns out that small children headed to school aren’t the only cyclists riding on the sidewalk. Grownups do it too. All day long.

The question now, I suppose, is what to do with this newly acquired knowledge.

How can I possibly leave the house in the morning knowing that this stuff is going on behind my back? That it isn’t staged for the sole purpose of annoying me? How will I be able to concentrate on my job? Could I set up a webcam that I can watch from my desk?

Or should I just get over it? Perhaps come to terms with the fact that while these things are an irritant, they don’t actually matter? You know, chill.

Oh man. That must be the meds talking.

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