Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid |

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

Out of deference to my international readership (one guy working with a medevac unit in Kabul), I generally try to avoid writing about Aspen-centric topics, preferring instead to focus on national and global subjects. This week, however, a couple of articles in the local papers and a visit to a park in town got me riled up enough that I’ve decided to tackle two issues of concern to residents of the Roaring Fork Valley.

The first article was one that seems to appear in some form or other nearly every day this time of year. It concerned the proliferation of dog waste on Smuggler Mountain Road, a popular hiking route in Aspen. According to the story, the situation had become so disgusting that something had to be done.

Now, I hike up Smuggler on a fairly regular basis with two dogs, both of whose waste I try to always pick up. So I may be a little biased, but I’ve never thought the poop problem was all that bad. All that changed on Wednesday, however.

I drove up to Smuggler with the dogs, only to find that there were no parking spaces at the base. No problem. I just drove a little farther and parked at Smuggler Park, which is just up the hill. The dogs and I got out of the car. One of the dogs ran over near a tree and did his business. I started that way with a plastic bag on my hand, and …

Holy crap! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. Put it this way: The area around that tree for a radius of about 40 feet was wholly crap. It was a winter’s worth of the feces of what must have been thousands of un-picked-up-after dogs finally revealed by the receding snow. I think the poop I picked up was my dog’s, but I had thousands of little piles to choose from.

Every year we read the same stories in the paper and hear the same pleas imploring people to pick up after their dogs, and every year lots of people don’t. I’m pretty sure at this point that a behavior as ingrained as that one is never going to change, which brings me to the second article in the paper that drew my attention earlier this week.

This one was a story about how gang-type behavior was on the rise amongst middle-schoolers in the valley. The general consensus was that most of the kids involved weren’t actually a part of any gangs but were just “gangster wannabes.” In any event, they were all what our elders might have once referred to as “snot-nose punks.”

I’m one of those who believes that what those kids really need is a swift kick in the ass, but as that’s not allowed in 21st Century America, we need to come up with an alternative punishment that will hopefully teach them a lesson about being contributing members of society.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? If people won’t pick up after their pets, we should sentence the gangster wannabes to 40 hours of picking up dog crap in parks. It’s perfect; it’ll humiliate the hell out of the little brats and provide a valuable service for the community.

And just to make sure the kids are putting in some effort, we can make the program incentive-based. Let’s pay them two or three bucks for every 10 pounds of poop they scoop. Trust me, an industrious kid could make a small fortune in a matter of minutes at Smuggler Park.

We shouldn’t stop there, though. I think we can take this idea and expand it to our whole penal system. Instead of having prisoners sitting around in jail, lifting weights, watching TV and learning how to be better criminals, let’s put them to work. Let’s turn all our penitentiaries into waste transfer stations.

Instead of having the rest of us worry about separating our recyclables, we can just throw everything out together, haul all our trash to the nearest prison and let prisoners in haz-mat suits wade through it and pick out all the cardboard and plastic for eight hours a day. I imagine that would go a long way toward disincentivizing crime.

Besides, I feel guilty enough when my dog takes a crap and I don’t have a plastic bag handy. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty just because I threw a can in the trash when there was no recycle bin handy.

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