Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dogs are the New Smoking

People used to smoke everywhere. In every room in every building, in every home, and every car and plane. In restaurants, movie theaters, and even schools. Smoking was so prevalent in the 1970s that my high school's classrooms had smoking sections in classrooms. Of course, by the time I got there in the late 90s, you'd get suspended just for possessing tobacco, but some ten years earlier 18-year-old students could sit in the back of the class and light up—provided they blew the smoke up and not forward.

Watch a movie from the 70s and you'll see a heavy bluish haze filling every indoor scene, from the control center in The Taking of Pelham 123 to Apocalypse Now, everyone smoked. It was partially ignorance of the health concerns associated with tobacco use, a complete denial of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke (especially in a room filled with smoke), but mostly just a thorough inundation of the habit into society. It was tolerated everywhere.

In 1990 I took my first plane flight on an Eastern Airlines DC-10 and my armrest had an ashtray in it. When I take a plane flight now, the person next to me gets agitated when I turn the reading light on; I can only imagine what it would be like if I lit up a Camel right next to him every 30 minutes. The thought of filling a plane with smoke seems just about as inconsiderate it gets, and yet this actually happened.

As we all know now, you can't smoke inside, unless it's your own home. Smoking bans cascaded across the country as the number of smokers tipped from a majority to a slight minority; now when we enter a restaurant, no one asks, "Smoking or non-smoking?"

Think about that last sentence for a second. It's only been six years, but doesn't that question seem bizarre now?

My wife and I recently booked a trip to Jekyll Island like we do every year for our anniversary, and we called the local realtor to reserve a townhouse that we especially like to stay in. Like always, I reminded them that we'd be bringing our dog.

"Oh, the owner no longer allows dogs," she responded.

Hmm, that's weird. They've always allowed dogs in the past, and part of the rental agreement is that we fully vacuum and otherwise cleanse the entire unit of dog hair and other canine-related mess. Surely this must be wrong.

"The owner recently installed new carpet and doesn't want it to be ruined by dogs," she informed me. Knowing this townhouse well, I know that only the two upstairs bedrooms and the hallway between them is carpeted. The other 75% of the dwelling is tile or linoleum.

"Well, my dog is clean," I explained. "He's got short hair, he never tracks paw prints on anything, and we always leave the unit in spotless condition." Furthermore, I know that all beach rentals install a type of carpet that, while sacrificing comfort significantly, is very easy to clean. Reason: Sand. There's no way the carpet in question is expensive.

"Well, some potential tenants may be allergic to dogs as well," she informed me. Ten years of working in an animal hospital has taught me that if someone's allergic to one of your pets, it's the damn cat. "I understand your situation. We have a dog ourselves and we're finding it harder and harder to find places we can stay with him on vacation."

I sighed audibly. "Dogs are the new smoking," I said.

"Ha, that's a great way to put it!" she cheerily agreed. Was there any way the owner would bend the rules for my very cute, very clean doggy? She'd give him a quick call while I waited on hold. Whether she called or not, the fact that someone would humor me this way was the result of some friendly smalltalk.

She popped back on the line a few minutes later. "Sir, we did everything we could, but he won't budge on this," she regretfully informed me. I stared at the online calendar showing the booking for this townhouse. It was completely open for the next three months. My glance shifted to my credit card and I thought about the $750 I had nearly hurled in this man's direction, comparing it in my mind to the cost of replacing the carpet.

"Well, thanks anyway. I can't afford any of your other properties, so I'll try something else," I politely stated. She recommended a pet-friendly hotel. I know it all too well as a last resort.

You could have the greatest, most talented dog in the world, but in the future we're moving into, he might just have to stay home.

No comments:

Post a Comment