It's too D@#$ Hot for a Penguin to just be Walking Around Here!


During the course of my deviant act, I noticed many people behaving in ways we have discussed in class this semester. This is the first time I have ever used a sociological viewpoint to try and understand why these people acted the way that they did. I was surprised by some of the reactions I observed, but overall most people who did see me during my act looked thoroughly amused. Because of the location and time of when my act was committed, I was able to observe reactions of different people from many age groups.

My act occurred on Wednesday July 20, 2011 at around 5:30 PM. My act took place around the neighborhood where I live. To start off my act, I found my penguin Halloween costume I wore last year and put it on. I then put my dog on her leash and began walking with her around the neighborhood in my costume. I chose to complete the act at this time, because I’ve noticed 5:30 PM is about the time a majority of the adults will be getting home from work. I also observed many younger children playing outside as well. I wanted to be able to observe as many reactions from people as I could. I also brought my dog with me because I thought she would help me get noticed easier. The weather on this particular day also helped this scene look even more bizarre. With temperatures in the mid 90’s and a heat index of over 100 degrees, a giant penguin looked even more out of place. My particular neighborhood is also very active. Regardless of the temperature, many people were still outside dealing with the heat. Because of these reasons I was able to observe many reactions from many different types of people.

The first group of people who spotted me was the younger children who were playing outside. In a group of 4, their initial reaction was laughter. They began pointing at me and getting their friends’ attention to make sure no one missed the sight. One boy then ordered another boy to ask me what I was doing. The boy said he didn’t want to and ran into the backyard of the house they were playing at. The boy then returned back to the front yard with his mom. When the boy’s mom saw me her initial reaction was laughter as well. However, this changed rather abruptly into an extremely confused facial expression. I heard the boy ask his mother what she thought I was doing. His mother told him she had absolutely no idea what I was doing and then told all the boys to go into the backyard to keep playing. The next person I encountered was an adult male who was also walking his dog. We were on the same side of the street so we had to pass each other on the sidewalk. From a distance I couldn’t make out what his facial expression looked like. As we got closer to each other, however, I noticed a look of concern on his face. As we passed one another he asked me if I was O.K. I told the man yes and he told me it was a little hot out for a costume like the one I had on. By this time I was already sweating hard because of the costume. I believe the man saw that and wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to pass out or anything of that nature. I reassured the man and we both went our separate directions. The next person I encountered was a woman who had just pulled into her driveway and was getting out of her car. Her initial reaction I perceived as a shocked face. This changed quickly and the woman began laughing. As I approached her she asked me what I was doing. I responded telling the woman I was just walking my dog. She then asked if she could take a picture with me and I told her she could. After the picture she continued laughing and then entered her house. The next group of people I encountered was an elderly couple who were outside working on their lawn and landscaping. At my arrival, the elderly man did a double take and looked utterly confused. His wife however took in my appearance and just continued her work on the landscaping without every looking at my again. The man exclaimed about never seeing penguins around town that often and began laughing. He asked me how I was able to get so far away from the South Pole and I told him I took a plane. At that comment, he began laughing and told me to have a nice day and continued his work on his lawn. After this encounter, I began to make my way back home. I had observed many reactions and needed to take the costume off because of the heat.

During my walk, I noticed many things we had discussed in class up to that point. I believe everyone I encountered was so surprised by my appearance because I violated the role expectations of dog walkers. When people view a person walking there dog they expect to see the dog on the leash and perhaps the walker carrying a plastic bag to clean up after their pet. They also expect the walker to be wearing clothes that r suitable for the weather. I violated these expectations by not having a bag with me and wearing something not suitable for the weather at all. With the group of younger children I encountered I noticed an in-group bias and an autocratic leader. The younger boy who ordered one of his friends to ask me what I was doing demonstrated a leadership style that put him in charge of determining the group’s tasks. They also demonstrated an in-group bias based on the fact that they were laughing and making fun of me to some extent. They believed they were superior to me because of my appearance. The encounter with the elderly couple showed me a great example of social distance. The couple did not come very close to me when talking. I believe they were somewhat nervous about what I might do. They kept a 4 to 12 foot distance away from me. The woman coming out of her car however showed an example of personal distance. I believe she took this approach with me because she thought what I was doing was humorous and wanted to take part in whatever I was trying to accomplish. When she took the picture she was very close to me because there was no one else outside to take the picture for her. This showed me that because of the costume some people felt more comfortable being around me whereas others were more hesitant. Overall, I enjoyed observing the reactions of people and using sociological concepts to try an understand why they acted the way they did.

Billy Madison