(First published in Planet Magazine, 04jul1995)
"It used to be a nice outdoor place where you could go sit
with your duck," says Nancy Townsend. That may not be how you
think of the place, but she's talking about Coffee Plantation, from
which she and Matilda the Diapered Duck have
recently been banned. "They're saying that they did this because
they had so many complaints about transients," says a dubious
Townsend. "I think any halfway-intelligent security force can
tell a duck from a transient!"
Some may argue that Townsend's giving too much credit to the
no-neck wonders patrolling downtown Tempe these days, but their
leash-holder, DMBthe company that manages Centerpoint"has gotten
really, really strict," Townsend complains. "I've been taking Matilda
down there since she was about a month old."
Townsend immediately set out to get the rules changed.
"Places that outlaw The Duckwell, I just go berserk!" she says.
"There are wild birds flying around there all the time that mess
on everything! Can't we use a little common sense here?" DMB
security seemed to agree, telling her that "Rules are rules, but
then there are silly rules."
DMB's Becky White, however, was less disposed to be lenient.
"[Nancy Townsend] was informed that in accordance with the
owners' rules and regulations, animals are not allowed on the
property." So why the sudden enforcement, when Townsend has been
hanging out at Coffee Plantation for months? "Well, that's what
she keeps saying," White says, "but I called Coffee Plantation,
and no one there ever saw her." However, observant Planet
readers no doubt recognized Coffee Plantation as the site of some
of the photos of Nancy and Matilda that accompanied our article
including the cover photo. White remains unconvinced. "For all I
know, it was that one day. And Coffee Plantation has requested
that she not be there."
Everyone involved understands that this duck wears a diaper.
Nonetheless, "It's one of those things, it's just...it's part of
the rules and regulations," White explains. But Matilda loves
people, I told her. "So do my dogs," she said. "And I really wish
that I could bring them with me to go have a cup of coffee, but I
can't." No reprieve, then, for the Duck Lady? "I checked with
the owners, and the rules are the rules."
That probably won't convince Townsend, who's a pretty
tenacious individual. When I suggested that maybe she should try
wearing dark glasses and claim that Matilda is a seeing-eye duck,
she laughed as though she just might consider it.
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