When the sh*te hits the asphalt

It’s a beautiful day in Omaha, Nebraska. Autumn foliage is spectacular this year, likely due to decent rains and very gradual temperature drops. So I took my favorite dog, and headed off to my favorite nearby lake.

I am a conscientious dog-partner (never “owner”), and I always take a big bottle of water, a dog-dish, and plastic bags–just in case Ginger feels a need to do a dump, as they say in the vernacular. She rarely does–in fact she’s so well trained, that she prefers to hang on for ages and do her business in the allotted area on top of our retaining wall in the back yard. Fortunately, the neighbors have a huge pine tree that “sheds” over this area, nicely blanketing the area every few days in a huge pile of needles.

Ginger after walk
Ginger after our 90 min. (~6.5 mile) walk; if you can tire a Vizsla, you must be in decent shape…

In the course of our walk, however, I became very angry. Well, perhaps this isn’t so unusual–I’ve been known in some circles to have a rather short fuse. Here is what happened. As we rounded Lake Zorinsky, I noticed a narrow asphalt path angling up away from the lake-one that I had never tried before. I knew that it would probably not go very far before merging into a neighborhood, but what the hell–beautiful day, let’s do a little extra walking. Ginger and I made our way up the quiet path, and no bikes or people passed us in either direction. As we neared the neighborhood, two women (mother and daughter, most likely), passed in the direction of the lake with their dog.

When Ginger and I hit the neighborhood, we did an abrupt about-face and headed back down towards the lake–only to encounter midway along this quiet trail, piles of dog stool smack in the middle of the path. Since no one except the two women had passed us in either direction, ergo their canine must have been responsible for the mess. Or more accurately, the two women were responsible. Unusual in Omaha, with so many responsible dog-partners.

Vizsla’s like to move fast, and after ~15 min., I could see the couple about 100 yards down the lake trail. We caught up and slowed, and I removed my headphones. The heavyset woman began to smile up at me, but I wiped it off her face very quickly.

“You know, you really should clean up the mess you dog made on the path up there,” I said as I pointed up the hill to the neighborhood. Truthfully, I was curious to see her reaction, and rather expected a great denial coupled with the pretense of anger at my insinuations.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see,” she said, avoiding eye contact religiously.

“Well, it’s pretty hard to miss–right in the very middle of the path. Even kicking it to the side of the path would have been better.”

“The dog was behind me; I didn’t notice.”

“That’s odd,” I said. “My dog typically has to stop and squat to do her business. I find it remarkable that your dog could do a dump while you continue walking and don’t even feel a pull on the leash.”

Then I moved towards her with the clincher. “You know, it’s people like you who gave a bad name to the rest of us who have dogs. Shame on you!” And we sped off…

What does this have to do with science? This is my answer to the Graduian trolls: it reminds me very much of microscopy (confocal microscopy). The garbage that some researchers have published (in the name of science) gives the rest of us cell biologists a bad name.

As Henry Baker wrote in 1742 in his book “The Microscope Made Easy:”

When you employ the microscope, shake off all prejudice, nor harbor any favorite opinions; for, if you do, ‘tis not unlikely fancy will betray you into error, and make you see what you wish to see’.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B006CSULBW? All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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