Earlier this week when I read that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had issued an alert warning people not to kiss their chickens, I had to look twice. My new reading glasses, it seemed to me, were failing. But no, I squinted, read again and that’s what it said.

The headline: “The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged people to refrain from kissing live poultry amid an outbreak of salmonella.” “Who does that?” I asked myself and read further. It turns out that some people snuggle their chickens, their ducks, and I suppose that includes their turkeys. Bottom line: Birds are now considered pets, and some people kiss them. I took a deep breath. I really wish I knew more about people.

At one point and despite the CDC’s repeated warnings, people were not wearing masks, and I get that. I hated wearing mine and still do, but I wore it and didn’t complain much, knowing that eventually things were going to change, and they have. Still, of all the things I had been worrying about, chickens were not one of them. Where did I go wrong?

Then again, reading the police blotter in this newspaper is an insight into the lives of people that never ceases to amaze me: people walking down the middle of Interstate 35, roommates fry-panning each other, drugs everywhere, even in plain sight. Hit-and-run by underage, drunken teenage girls, someone biting a chunk of a police officer’s ear. Oh, and a woman refusing to emerge from under a blanket while being arrested. I could go on for miles. Some make you laugh, some make you want to cry — and others, like most, are just sad, if not downright depressing. Even so, I wish I had an explanation for even one.

Then there is the “Man allegedly talked to plants, growled at children at Golden Triangle Mall.” This last reminded me of my former father-in-law, who would have said “Heavens to Betsy” — he used that expression a lot. It also reminded me how little I really knew about people, and I started thinking about those chickens again.

Driving through Denton, one already knows what to expect: rude, impatient drivers, no turn signals, motorcycles weaving in and out like straws in a hat, people going south on Locust and north on Elm, etc. But I’m used to that and find it sort of quaint. Just kidding. Still, the question remains: Where are these people and the ones populating our police blotter coming from? And who are they? I’ve never met any.

There is a Sherlock Holmes story called “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” where he and Dr. Watson are in a carriage going down a country lane and Watson mentions how peaceful the houses look. Holmes tells him that he’s wrong, that the houses are a beehive of criminal activity.

“Good heavens!” cries Watson. “Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?”

“They always fill me with a certain horror,” says Holmes. “It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside. ... Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty,” he continues, “the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”

“Is this the new Denton?” I asked myself.

So maybe I should have studied sociology or psychology and learned more about people and what to expect. From what I read, one must expect anything and be surprised at nothing. Hard to do, if you ask me, and still harder to imagine as a writer.

Back when my father was a practicing psychiatrist here in Denton, someone gave him a cup that we still have, one that shows a doctor listening to his patient blab on and on from the couch while the doctor writes three words on his notepad: “Just plain nuts.”

It might be a more knowledgeable person can come up with a good answer that explains what is reported in the police blotter, or the unusual, if not vexing warnings of the CDC, but then again, why make the answer complicated when a simple one will do just as well? Drinking coffee this morning and reading the cup, I understood that “Just plain nuts” is as good an answer as we are likely to get — and a simple, concise medical diagnosis we can all understand, at last.

MANUEL TABOADA lives, works and writes in Denton. He welcomes feedback and can be reached at manueltaboada.com.

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