Jul 22, 2006

The Dog Whisperer

The other week I spent some time with the family dog taking many long walks so we could do some bonding. When I was correcting her behavior I found myself saying "no" or "heel" frequently, and I realized it was a lot easier if I just act like Cesar Millan from the Dog Whisperer TV show and make a tsst sound. If you've watched even 5 minutes of his National Geographic channel show, you'd surely know this sound. They even spoofed him on South Park last season. The technique is that whenever your dog does something you do not want him to do, you make a loud tsst and correct the behavior. Over time, he learns that whenever he hears tsst, he needs to stop doing what he's doing and behave.

After having gone on so many walks with the dog and after saying tsst more than a few times, I realized that I would inadvertently tsst the people around me. If someone said something I didn't agree with, or didn't go along with a course of action I recommended, they'd get a high pitched tsst in their face. If they were really making me upset, I'd contort my hand to form a C-shape to mimic another dogs mouth getting ready to attack, and pair that with the tsst sound.

I had to stop using Dog Whisperer techniques on people while I was in the US or risk being pummled, but while back in Beijing I've found myself doing them again. It must be the pure amount of aggravation and frustration that you encounter every day just being out and about in China. When you cram enough people into a small space we all degenerate to the level of animals. The other day I unexpectedly used the tsst on a person. It just happened to slip out.

First some background. If you've been to China, you may know that the Chinese can't really walk in a straight line. They'll stop suddenly, or swerve unexpectedly to either side. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and car drivers all do the same thing. Not exactly wise in a densely populated country with zooming motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, and giant tricycles all around you.

The other day I was walking at a brisk pace down a 10-foot wide sidewalk. The sun was beating down hard despite the cover provided by the thick air pollution. As I walked at my brisk 4 MPH pace, I gradually approached from behind a mother-daughter pair directly in my path. They were walking in the same direction as I was but at a much slower speed. Senior citizen speed. Seeing that the sidewalk was so wide, I had reasonable clearance and veered far to the left to pass around them. As I neared within 5 feet of them, I sensed them begin to do the Chinese swervy-walk, and they started to encroach on my intended line of travel. "TSST!", I burst out suddenly at full volume, about 2 feet from the older lady's ear as I passed on the left, just prior to a potential collision. The lady looked like a sleeping cat that just had ice water dumped on it. She excitedly jumped to attention, and started to look around in all directions and shout irately:

(Yikes! Scared the crap out of me! What the heck! What the heck are you doing!)

As I continued at my 4 MPH pace and put more distance between myself and the irate pair, I thought to myself, that encounter could be thought by some to be culturally inappropriate and I was perceived as being The Rude Foreigner. I had to ask myself, would I do that in my own country? You bet your socks I would. And I have done that, as previously mentioned. I don't do anything in any country that I wouldn't dare to do in my own. In this particular case I had cleverly avoided a pedestrian collision. I prevented bodily harm to myself and another person. And now the older lady in the encounter has learned some rules, boundaries, and limitations. Thanks to me, she'll be a better citizen in the future.

Because: "I am the Pedestrian Whisperer. I rehabilitate dogs. I train people not to suddenly change direction while walking in public places."


Blogger absolutED said...

but doing what you would typically do in your own country doesn't mean it's right to do it in another country. And typically that might be a sign of doing something culturally inappropriate especially when you're in a country very culturally different from your own... my 2 cents...

8:39 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

This is true. Case in point, hacking and spitting phlegm or blowing mucus out of one nostril on the street is deemed culturally inappropriate in the US, but it tolerated where I live now.

2:16 AM  

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