Stephen Jack Marketing Consultant, Writer


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A Dog Lays a Minefield
Unbeknown to waiting passengers, a small dog plays havoc at a provincial Taiwan railway station.

I don't know why I notice him as he comes in. No one else seems to. He is a small slightly mangy dog, the kind of uncared for canine you can see on any street in Taiwan. Maybe its the cocky way he holds his head and tail high as he begins a circuit of the cavernous railway station. Maybe it's just because I have waited a long time for my train and I'm bored.

Passengers at the Taitung New Railway Station do what they do at any train station – they walk quickly through the entrance, cross the hall, peruse the overhead timetable, glance at their watches, before marching up to the ticket counter. The most direct line and natural path from main entrance to the counter crosses though the centre of the station.

For such a large building there is precious little seating. Exactly 48-pairs of small-grade Taiwanese buttocks fill the stingy clump of bench seats in the rear. That is why I am standing, leaning against the wall. From here though I can see everything that is going on. So far 'everything' is not much.

I see the dog taking off on a second tour of the building, ignoring everyone. He seems driven as if on some kind of mission.

A baby girl learning to walk is the only other action. She staggers around, her young mother in pursuit catching her each time she tumbles.

After a while the dog strides toward the centre of the station. He homes in on two strips of brown tiles that intersect the middle of the expansive white marble floor. He steps a couple of feet to the side of these, just as I am distracted again by the careening baby.

Then from the rear of the building, the bench seats, I hear a man's voice.

"He thinks it's a toilet."
"What?" asks his daughter.
"He thinks it's a toilet."
"That little dog." I see him pointing.
"Aiya!." The dog's right rear leg is pointing too – towards the ceiling.

Then with all four legs on the ground again, the dog spins around and lowers his nose to sniff the warm yellow liquid he has just produced. As I try to take in the enormity of this brazen act, he ambles off, a satisfied grin on his face.

I follow his progress around the building before losing sight of him. Then suddenly he is back at the scene, barely a single human step away from his pee pond. There is no surprise. He hunkers down. In short time out IT pops. Strike two, Number Two! Once again he admires his handiwork before trotting proudly out of the station into the darkness.

I look to the observant man on the seat for his reaction this time but he is reading a newspaper and hasn't seen this second incursion. No one has except me.

What is planted now in the station is nothing less than a minefield of canine bodily excretion. I am the only witness to an act of terror; a time bomb planted. Taking responsible action does cross my mind – I should tell someone, get the mess cleaned up – but the urge passes quickly as I realise the possible consequences of what I have witnessed.

As the departure time for my train to Taipei nears, the station gets busier, the noise level rises as more people arrive. A young man checking his watch steps within two inches of the turd. Another heads straight for IT but veers away at the last second without seeing anything. A jogger in a pink track suit goose-steps right into the station, and just as I am sure he is going to pound IT, he misses. It's like watching the kind of mystery/thriller where you already know the crime and the perpetrator; the suspense is all in waiting to find out who the victim will be.

All this time the tot is teetering around in concentric circles, zeroing in time and again on the Danger Zone. I imagine the psychological drama she will face later in life if she lands headfirst in dog poo now. I worry she may never walk again.

As always, there's someone meandering aimlessly, talking very loudly on a mobile phone. He has been doing this for 15 minutes. I hope his foot finds IT. That'd be a conversation stopper. But it's not to be.

This little drama is getting more exciting by the second. I keep waiting for it to happen but incredibly there are only a series of near misses. Given the position of the mess I am very surprised that no passengers have ended up in it. I am stunned that nobody has even seen it.

Now it's the turn of two nuns. I'm not a Catholic but no no, not them, please! All pristine in white – that would be really undignified. Whether by the hand of an unseen shepherd or just dumb luck, like everyone else they make it through unscathed.

About to quash IT, an eagle-eyed Taoist monk does actually see IT and very artfully slides his slippered foot sideways out of harm's way. This is impressive enough, but then with great feline dexterity he turns and bends down to the excrement. The look on his face is amazement. Do I see his nostril flare? Is he having a little whiff? And all this without stopping; a true martial arts master. For an instant I think he might do something about IT but being a Taoist, of course he does nothing and continues on to the ticket counter.

The announcement of the Taipei train's impending arrival sends most people scurrying over to the platform gate to line up. But I am waiting for the finale and reluctant to leave.
A station attendant walks down from the ticket counter. His path takes him well clear of the Danger Zone but as if by some Hitchcockian twist of fate, a friend calls to him and he changes course for a moment to say hello. His new trajectory to the gate though puts him on a deadly collision course. Then, finally, it happens. Now, I may have watched too many clichéd movies in my time, but I swear that just before the second of impact, motion slowed down dramatically and the whole place went silent, before a loud, drawn out squishing sound.

After opening the gate, the attendant begins punching tickets and letting passengers onto the platform. I join the queue and as I get closer to the gate, I start to smell IT. Others can too. One or two people look at each other quizzically. One woman looks very relieved after checking her own shoes, as if to say, "At least it's not me." Someone asks, "What's that smell?" Though he must smell IT, the attendant has no inkling that he is the victim of a canine conspiracy and that his shoe is the source of the foul odour.

Settled comfortably on the train, all I can do is wonder whether the dog makes his guerrilla raid on the station every night, and why no one is setting up deck chairs and selling tickets to the best entertainment in town.

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