The Poo Jogger. A man in his 60s with a big corporate job in the retirement home industry who over the course of a year shat on the same bit of footpath in Brisbane while out on early morning runs. He was caught in a classic case of vigilantism when angry residents staked him out and photographed him with his pants down – perfectly-framed and flash-lit, a quizzical look on his upper-middle-class white face, the veins in his neck straining.
You may have seen it.
His name is Andrew McIntosh. He works – or worked, because the life he knew before is finished – for Aveo. He was ‘national quality manager’; a well-paid job for the company named in a Fairfax Media investigation last year as one which exploited elderly residents (it has 90 ‘communities’ in Australia) for higher profits. There’s a lot going on in the Poo Jogger story, not least that this guy’s former employer (allegedly) shat on old people for a living and he, while administering their ‘quality’, shat on the footpath in his spare time.
Is the Poo Jogger Affair funny? I haven’t seen anyone laugh about it. It’s more of a horrified, primal fascination. Some of the memes and tweets are funny but the act itself? I found it sad and desperate and the sign of a man with a lot on his mind and scant ability to process it all. Shitting in the street all those times was a cry for help. One aspect of the case which I can’t shake (apart from all of it) is that, according to the amateur photographer, Mr McIntosh waved cheerily after being captured in the act.
Steve Smith told the Courier-Mail he expected to be ‘met with abuse’ but the Poo-Jogger gave a ‘friendly’ hello. ‘It was very strange,’ he said.
It sounds to me like he wanted to be caught.
The photo shows him to have what looks like loo paper on him too, in his hand. Residents in the nice neighbourhood of Greenslopes, just south of Brisbane city, have been saying there was usually paper left with the deposits, which they took as an indication of ‘planning’. He had intent.
The story of his capture is equally as incredible. Residents of the building that he pooed near set up an elaborate sting. Two of them bought a wireless night-vision camera to better determine the time of the strikes. They mapped possible running routes. There are parks nearby, by the way, and public toilets, I checked on Google Maps. Then they got the photo one morning. In China there’s a phrase for this – ‘renrou sousuo’ or ‘human flesh search’. This refers to vigilantes in the community who identify miscreants. Famous cases over there include people hurting kittens, people obstructing ambulances, that sort of thing. Usually they are then outed online, which didn’t happen here because the residents took the photo to the police. But essentially they took the law into their own hands because no one else would and caught the guy, thus eliminating their neighbourhood of a bad, bad situation and arriving at, for them, a sense of justice.
Apart from his corporate job with Aveo, the Poo Jogger also had a role in planning for the Brisbane City Council too. Buildings and footpaths and amenity. Who cleaned up his mess? We had a spate of dumpings at a park near where I live in Melbourne a few years back and from time to time our dog would sniff them out and get involved so I can tell you cleaning up grown-up human faeces is not very nice. It’s not clear who cleaned up after this guy. Maybe some Brisbane City Council workers on a minimum wage?
It’s all so Freudian. We can surmise that Mr McIntosh wanted to displease his mother by not defecating according her nice, tidy wishes. According to Freud he would be a rebellious and disorganised man. Rebelliousness here stretches to breaking the poo taboo. He took what is very private right out there into the public realm and seemed unconcerned when caught. He, as a Freudian ‘anal-expulsive’ personality – one who ignores the usual rules of the toilet – would be inconsiderate, flighty and, in private but not at work, loose with money. A bad, dirty child trying to regain some sense of control as he reaches 65 by soiling the streets.
It’s not uncommon. People do this, there are serial offenders. It’s a thing. These are not the people who might be physically sick or caught short or both who occasionally shit under a tree or down a laneway or something. It’s the people who serially poo somewhere inappropriate, maybe as revenge, at the very simplest level. To shit the neighbour who has been shitting you. To stick a middle finger up to those taking over your neighbourhood in some way.
Maybe that’s what was happening here. Or maybe he is mentally ill. Maybe, within that, it goes right back to how he handled himself on the toilet as a child and Freud was right. Maybe it became a strange little personal ritual that he thought he could keep doing and which gave him some sort of comfort. Maybe he was rebelling against a corporate job and dull lifestyle. Who knows. But really in the end it just isn’t that funny.