Observation #1: I drove ten minutes to the mall on a Friday evening, which is something I have not done in years. I have been around the world a number of times and experienced many different cultures on five continents, but nothing prepared me for the cultural shock I got at the mall. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but what I saw could not be described without lots of color photographs. Sociologists should forget their visits to remote tribal villages and simply go to the mall.

It began outside the mall around a water fountain where at least 200 individuals too young to drive were desperately trying to solve their personal identity crises through bazaar rituals, Halloween-like costumes and creative self-mutilations. I saw body parts that shouldn't even have been exposed, much less pierced or tattooed, and behaviors that had to have been chemically sponsored. Inside the mall the range of behaviors and attires expanded to include the bubba factor, the yuppie contingent, senior citizens, teens with babies, obese of all ages, and a few normal people looking lost. At least I thought they were normal looking, but then normal can't be normal if it is such a small minority. Zoos don't have the variety that the mall was exhibiting.

What distressed me most was that it was obviously a rather typical Friday night at the mall. Where have I been? A time warp obviously exists somewhere between my house and the mall. From now on I'm going to be on the lookout for it.

Observation #2: While having lunch I met a guy who said he graduated from college in the mid 1970's. That makes him around 47 years of age. We had a pleasant conversation about life and the usual mundane things that strangers talk about. He mentioned that he started college as a business major but didn't like it and graduated as a public administration major. Since then he had worked for the state government in various management positions. He certainly looked successful. He was dressed in a business suit that looked more expensive than my entire wardrobe, which is mostly blue jeans.

Later in our conversation he mentioned that he plans on retiring from his state job in five years and wants to be a school crossing guard. I thought he was kidding, but he was serious. I'm thinking that anyone who can afford to retire at age 52 must be financially secure and probably wouldn't need to work, so there must be a catch to this. I don't know anybody who is a school crossing guard, and have never met any aspiring ones, but it doesn't seem like many of them would fit his description. I wanted to suggest that he look into being a Wal-Mart greeter, since the weather can at times be unpleasant for crossing guards, but situation was already so strange that I wasn't sure if reality had been breached or not, so I said good-bye.

Observation #3: My dog Nina escaped from my friends fenced backyard while we were eating dinner. She couldn't have been gone more than 15 minutes when I discovered her escape. I knew she wouldn't stray far. A few calls for her followed by a drive around the neighborhood yielded nothing. My friends and I expanded our search of the neighborhood and surrounding area, but after two hours we came up empty handed. Her collar had an ID tag with her name, my name, my address and my phone number, so I had been calling my house and checking my answering machine every fifteen minutes. No calls.

Back at my friends' house we saw a neighbor couple walking their dog and ask them if they had seen a black dog. "Yes, we found a black dog named Nina and called the police who came and got her." It turns out she had been in the yard next to my friends' house.

I called the police. "Is her name Nina?" the police asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"We called an animal rescue agency and they took Nina," the police told me. I got the name of the rescue agency and called them. I got a recording - which was no surprise since it was 11 P.M. on a Saturday night. The recording gave me an emergency number and I called it. A woman answered and I asked about Nina.

"Yes, we picked up Nina from the Police and took her to the county dog pound, but they won't be open until Monday," the rescue lady informed me. I was relieved to know where Nina was, and impressed with the efficiency of the whole process. However after some reflection I became annoyed that my dog has been placed in dog jail for two days just for walking into the neighbor's yard.

Because of my work schedule, I was unable to go to the dog pound until Monday afternoon. At the desk, I inquired about Nina. "Yes, Nina is here." It cost me $12 to spring her from jail and we went home. I'd had time to stew over this whole situation and I was not happy. The neighbors, the police, the rescue agency, and the county dog pound all noted Nina's tag with my name, address and phone number, but not one of them called me during the two days she was in their possession. So much for putting an ID tag on my dog. The system may have been efficient, but its personnel were incompetent.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted revenge. If Nina had been a cow, too big to whisk away in a police car, I'll bet my phone would have been ringing off the hook. If she had been a pet raccoon, the neighbors would not have bothered with her. Once I had a pet black rat snake that slithered out into the back yard when I wasn't watching her, and a neighbor chopped her up with a shovel thinking she was an evil snake.

I'm not sure what to conclude from these experiences except that people are idiots.