Monday, August 17, 2009

The Dog Parkist: Too Much Information Person

Q: There's a person at the Park whom I like very much, but s/he is going through a major life change, and unfortunately it is the only thing s/he can talk about. Some of the details s/he shares are a little too personal and, frankly, a little icky. What do I do? 
—Thanks for Sharing, Not

A: Dear Thanks, as  you know, Dog Parkers are notorious for overstepping boundaries, whether they be city and state mandates for leashing dogs and not trespassing or personal limits on sharing too much information. Most Parkers are conscious of their flagrant violations of city code and state property lines; in fact, they get a definite thrill from doing so. Unfortunately, until the City Council of Austin passes a law about the limits on personal information that may be shared to uninterested parties in a public space, there will be no signs posted that say "The Sharing of Too Much Personal Information Pertaining to Bodily Functions, Marital Relations, Medical Treatments, Personal Finances, and Housing Prices is in Direct Violation of City Code TMI-658204-II (sub paragraph B-12). Violators will be fined up to $20 or must supply unwilling listeners with ear plugs. These premises are under constant Audio Surveillance!" Alas.

Now, dog owners are notoriously bad about establishing personal boundaries. They let their dogs eat from their bowls, sleep on their beds, and drag unthinkably filthy toys around the house, and they could not be happier. Still, it's one thing to let yourself be pushed around by a loyal, loving, waggy-tailed hound (how can you resist?). But it is another altogether to be made uncomfortable by a human you probably wouldn't even recognize at the grocery store (unless he or she had the mutt along). So, here are some strategies the Dog Parkist recommends when your fellow Dog Parker starts sharing too much information:
  • start picking up poop (It doesn't matter if it's your own dog's poop or not; just whip out a bag and focus on rooting out those turds. Encourage Too Much Information Person (TMIP) to do the same. You may still have to listen, but you will be doing something useful and beneficial for the whole Park, which should make you feel better.)
  • stop and tie your shoe (Take your time and do it right. Stick your tongue out, Charlie Brown style, to indicate your level of concentration. Note: This strategy works better when you are walking in a group; the point is to let the crowd sweep around you, taking TMIP with it. Also, only try this when you are wearing shoes that actually have laces.)
  • pretend you are having a seizure or have stepped in fire ants (This strategy requires you to yelp, jump around, and slap yourself silly. Don't hurt yourself. When you are suitably pink-faced from all the jumping and slapping, excuse yourself and run to your car.)
  • be an adult (The Dog Parkist knows that most Parkers are only chronologically adults. Let her explain: As an adult, you simply look TMIP in the eye and say, in gentle tones, that you are terribly sorry for his or her troubles, but you simply do not feel comfortable hearing the sordid details. Offer your sympathy but not your happy listening ears. Then—you know what comes next—just keep walking. You can do it!
Thanks for writing! 

Dear Readers: The Dog Parkist regrets the infrequency with which she writes now. She pledges to provide you with timely and thoughtful advice as often as possible in the coming weeks. You could help an advice columnist out, though, by sending her some questions. Remember, no concern of yours is too small! Ta!


  1. Then there's the gentle brush-off: "I really look forward to catching up with you later." Yeah, much later.

  2. Or you could lean over and barf on their shoes.


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