I had a bad day last week. I had parked my car illegally near the square. A Covington police officer pulled his cruiser alongside me and instructed me to move and I ignored him while I dipped into the paper bag in my lap for another cinnamon bun from Bread & Butter. He told me again and I angrily threw the bag out the window and sped off. Uh oh. Talk about grown men doing stupid things. Hoping to lose him, I turned onto Conyers Street, giving the stop sign no notice. Stabbing the gas pedal with a heavy foot, I careened down the road as the number of blue lights in my rearview mirror multiplied. By the time I hit Academy Springs Park, I was pushing 90 miles per hour.
OK, that’s a lie. I just made that crap up. Everybody knows my car can’t do 90 mph.
But if all that had actually happened—failure to obey an officer, littering, running a stop sign and speeding at well-over double the limit—I would probably be buried under the jail and my wife may, or may not, visit me on Tuesdays. And according to the City of Covington base fine list for various offenses, before other fees are added in, my checking account would be $940 lighter for all those violations combined.
However, should my beloved mixed-breed dog go behind a tree in the city cemetery and deposit seven ounces of brown, staggeringly aromatic, nutrient rich, all-natural doo, the fine could be $1,000.
Seriously? Yes, seriously.
Another scenario: Letting your child ride without a seatbelt, which is, well, stupid: $50 (code 40.8.76). Dog pooping without a license: $1,000. Giving alcohol to that same kid: $500 (code 3.3.23). But letting Fido do what dogs do, which is, um, going doo doo: 1,000 smackeroos. Driving on the wrong side of the road: $181 (code 40.6.40). But Cujo cowering behind a tombstone because no dog toilet is nearby? One. Thousand. Dollars. In sum: Not buckling your kid’s seatbelt and allowing him to swill beer and giggle while you swerve down Floyd Street in 4,000 pounds of fast-moving steel, on the wrong side of the road, endangering your kid, yourself, and some poor sap unlucky enough to be in your lane: $731. Golly, there’s still room in the budget to run a red light for $120 (code 40.6.20) and, hey—go for it—fail to yield at an intersection for another $120 (code 40.6.70). But don’t be alarmed about traversing Floyd Street because the really bad doo doo is underway a few blocks over in the cemetery.
Yes, I know. It’s the owner who gets the fine, not Peaches. And, yes, stepping into Peaches’ daily duty is no walk in the park, or cemetery as it were. I even concede that owners should pick up after their furry friends. I get that. But—wild guess here—my hunch is that CPD Chief Stacy Cotton would just as soon not add poop patrol to the long list of duties already on his department’s plate. And where is the sense of proportion when a first offense DUI gets you a $760 fine (code 40-6-391) but forgetting to take a brown Kroger grocery bag with you on your daily Toto trek can set you back several months’ worth of groceries?
How did we get here? Our federal government has become dysfunctional, evil lurks at home and in every corner of the globe, the Russians will stop at nothing to sabotage our democratic voting process, and here we are discussing what happens next to the grave marker that is lovingly inscribed with “Our Favorite Redhead.”
According to city officials, it began with a rather nasty post on the police department’s Facebook page, and then others—some anonymous, of course—piled on. I didn’t see that posting when I looked, so maybe the department’s webmaster figured it was better for the city’s social media page to not wade into the ramblings of a small group of disgruntled folks with too much time on their hands.
In any event, this was all discussed at a recent city council meeting where cooler heads prevailed and a wait-and-see approach was taken. So, a fair warning to all: Get Beauregard Jr. drunk and race around town till you crash into someone, but if you really want to live dangerously, take Lassie for a stroll where the ghosts of Covington are on patrol.
Oh, and should you be wondering: Do I pick up after my dog? First, how exactly are we defining “pick up?” In any event, like lawyered-up criminals everywhere, I’m pleading the Fifth—I may have been born yesterday, but I wasn’t born last night.
Rob Levin is president and editor of a book publishing company in Covington and is a former national feature writer for the Atlanta Constitution.