I like to think of myself as an open-minded person. After all, I went to an elite, effete, east coast college where we were trained to look at things from all sides. I followed that up with law school, where the tools of discourse were refined and sharpened. I’m an openly gay, white male, living on the Westside with my dachshund. The only way I could be more open minded is if I was a vegetarian — but there’s a limit to what I’ll put up with.
Over the past 10 years of practicing law, I’ve had all types of clients, from the grungiest of men to the most well-heeled of Brentwood mothers. I appear in front of judges who are old white men and young black women, and my job is to plead their case in such a way that regardless of who is sitting on the bench, they get a fair hearing.
People tell me all kinds of personal details about their lives, from the inane “I like to eat my eggs cold,” to the over the top sexual details that would make a psychotherapist who specializes in sexual problems blush. Through it all I maintain a calm demeanor.
But there are times when I lose my cool. I don’t particularly like that aspect of myself, but we all have our limits. This past week I was brought right to the edge of wanting to scream.
The dachshund and I were walking down the Third Street Promenade on one of those great afternoons where it was warm, but not too much so. A slight breeze was circulating and there were many people window shopping.
And there, right in the middle of the block, where the topiary are and the teenagers congregate, was this person who was just hanging out, listening to her iPod. She was dressed in full tie-dyed regalia, and had that grungy “I don’t care about anything” vibe going on. She was seated and in front of her, arranged in an arc, was the result of what could only be described as an hours worth of spitting.
There are few things that disgust me more that watching someone spit on the street.
This person was just planted there, like a tie-dyed cow, lounging in the sun, chewing her cud and spitting it out. I was incensed. Enraged, and disgusted, I walked up to the nearest Bayside District ambassador and asked him to call the police.
He said he’d be happy to, but they don’t respond quickly to these type of complaints and frankly it would be more effective if I were to call them myself. This only made me madder.
We got into a discussion about his role as an ambassador, and the limits of what he can do. He calmly explained to me that his job was to help tourists find their way around town — to be a hospitality helper. I pointed out to him that if we are allowing people to create an environment that is not only aesthetically unattractive, but is also a health concern, that we are not being very hospitable.
Finally I couldn’t take it any longer and had to just walk away.
But this brings me to my point. City Hall regulates a tremendous amount of our lives. The dog has to be on a leash for safety. He has to have various shots for health concerns. He has to have a valid license to prove that he’s had his shots. I have to carry a poo bag should he have the need to relieve himself, and if I don’t clean up after him, I get a nasty ticket.
My family law practice has to have a business license, and has an assessment from the Pico Neighborhood Business Improvement District. The office I work in must be inspected each year by firemen. (OK so I actually like that part for the eye candy and flirting with the firemen. We do have some unbelievably attractive firemen!) But my point is that City Hall regulates and coordinates many different aspects of our lives.
Why can’t these ambassadors work more closely with the police department to clean up the promenade? Downtownsm.com is the official website for the Bayside District and their description of the purpose for the ambassadors is: “Downtown Santa Monica’s Ambassador Program was created to provide an inviting and safe atmosphere in the district. Ambassadors are trained in a variety of tasks, including: providing information to visitors, giving directions, offering escort services to employees, reporting maintenance issues and any other action that serves to make the district more inviting.”
I think that stopping a tie-dyed cow from creating a health hazard would fall under the “maintenance issues” or at least, “any other action that serves to make the district more inviting.” And that was my point.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.