best possible reservoirs
Saturday, December 31 2005
setting: rural Hurley, Ulster County, New York
Today Gretchen and I drove down the eastern seaboard to visit her parents in Silver Spring. As always, her brother and sister-in-law were also there with their increasingly anthropoid offspring. Seeing the nephew on such a regular -if infrequent- basis provides an effect sort of like a stop motion camera whose frames are three dimensional odorama video. Before your eyes, the kid is learning first to walk and then to talk. It's interesting, but this stuff actually intrigued me a lot more when I was five or six years old, watching the baby brothers and sisters of my friends gradually mastering the fundamentals of humanity.
For the past thirty years, Gretchen's parents have hosted an annual New Years Eve dinner, and tonight was no exception. In thirty years, their kids have grown up and some of them have had kids of their own. There were three generations present at the table, though only two among the latest generation were human. The others were dogs, particularly Sally and Eleanor. I can't say that the guests were all that enthusiastic about our adopted children; they were much more comfortable with the human, non-adopted kind, whether they be pooping in their pants, mouthing the nascent rudiments of words, or throwing tintrum tantrums. The oldest human among the most recent generation was nearly five years old and able to speak in complete sentences, and he'd already absorbed his mother's aversion to dogs (expressed as a whiny sort of tantrum).
People who don't like cats frequently claim to be allergic. With people who dislike dogs, it's most common for the expressed concern to be the animals' casual regard towards cleanliness (dogs do eat shit, after all). But in ways that can really affect the health of another human being, babies and small children are the worst offenders. They sneeze with abandon and think nothing of coating surfaces with their various facial secretions (something their parents inevitably find adorable). In situations where food has been placed out for guests, the wee ones delight in handling it all with their fingers, behavior that would never be tolerated from a finger-equipped dog. Bacteriologically or virologically, none of this would be any worse than the things dogs do were it not for the fact that humans are the best possible reservoirs for human diseases. A toddler in a day care environment is sure to pick up all the diseases of his compatriots, which he will then spread, first to his parents, then to his adoring relatives, then to their friends, and on and on. I have an aversion to all brightly-colored childrens' furniture and toys, and I don't think it's just because I have a neurotic Howard Hughes complex, though that probably plays a role.
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