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The Dog Watch


Claim:   Young man tries to distract his date's parents from his dinnertime faux pas by inadvertently calling their attention to an even more embarrassing situation.

LEGEND

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2000]

Bob was dating a girl from a very posh family. She invites him to dinner with Pater and Mater at home. Bob knows naught of social graces, but follows everyone's lead at table and fancies that he's doing well until, during the salad course, a piece of lettuce falls into his lap. Nobody seemed to notice but Bob is stymied. How to recover the lettuce? He is seated at table facing a window, the girlfriend facing him (back to window) and the parents at either end of the table to his left and right. He arrives at a solution, thus: "Wow, look at that!" as he motions toward the window. They all look, he picks the lettuce off his lap and returns it to his plate. The perfect crime, yes? But they continue to look out the window. He stands up to look himself, and sees two dogs copulating on the well manicured lawn.
 

Variations:  

  • Why the young man needs to fabricate a distraction varies from telling to telling. In the example noted above, he's faced with a dropped food dilemma. In other versions of the basic tale, his fiancée notices that his fly is unzipped and communicates this dire situation to him. Whatever the problem, it's one that needs be addressed while he's still seated, but any efforts to do so will draw the attention of the girl's parents, hence the need for a bit of misdirection.

Origins:   In common with the broken sink tale, once again the "unsuitable suitor" theme comes into play. In this instance the discomfited is a young man, very often a nervous fellow meeting his betrothed's snooty parents for the first time. He's all too aware of the social deficit between himself and his future bride and is
walking on eggshells lest her parents think the worse of him for his humble beginnings. He's out of his element and he knows it, but he's trying his best.

His efforts to momentarily distract the family lead to a greater social gaffe; he inadvertently points them to the sight of two dogs going at it right where they have no choice but to look. Adding to the inappropriateness of directing anyone's attention to such a sight is his unique position with this family. He's about to marry their treasured daughter, after all, and that marriage will involve getting biblical with her. Even if her parents understand his "Wow! Look at that!" action as a poor joke and forgive him for it, they're left with a too vivid image of copulation, the one element of their daughter's future they'd much rather not have to contemplate.

In some "open fly" versions, the young man further compounds his embarrassment by hastily zipping the edge of the tablecloth into his pants while his future inlaws are gaping at the spectacle taking place on the front lawn. The end of the meal sees him stripping the covering from the table and sending the dishes flying when he nonchalantly stands and attempts to walk away.

As always, the theme is embarrassment, with the future groom's awful moment heightened by the additional importance ascribed to this particular evening. These are not, after all, the understanding parents of his wife of many years; these are the anxious mother and father he's soon to snatch their baby girl from. But of course his attempts to prove that he's no piker and will indeed know how to take care of her will founder on the rocks of social disaster.

A related legend working the same theme goes as follows:
A friend of a friend had just embarked on a relationship with a young woman from work. A chance meeting over the photocopier had blossomed into something really special. So special, in fact, that he was invited round for dinner to meet her well-heeled parents.

On his best behaviour, the lad turned up at their salubrious address in good time and, despite his apprehension, the evening was pleasant, if a little strained.

Until, that is, the guest felt strangely frail, gripped by a bad case of flatulence. He leapt up from the table and, making his excuses, headed off to find the toilet. But the internal combustion was insistent and when he spotted a small open window out of the parents' earshot, he thrust his rear through and gave vent.

Much relieved, he rejoined the subdued diners and carried off the rest of the evening without further trouble.

As they bid the parents goodbye and set off down the drive in the car, the satisfied bloke beamed to his new love.

"Well, that didn't go too badly," he smarmed. "What d'you reckon, darling?"

"Well," she replied surprisingly curtly, "it was going fine till you farted through the serving hatch ... darling."
Barbara "blow the hatches, men!" Mikkelson

Sightings:   Look for a brief mention of this legend in the "Wife of Bath" episode of the BBC's Canterbury Tales (original air date 18 September 2003).

Last updated:   29 July 2013

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Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Vanishing Hitchhiker.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1981.   ISBN 0-393-95169-3   (pp. 138-139).

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   "Urban Myths."
    The Guardian.   30 September 1995   (p. 67).