Early Saturday morning on a recent visit to New York City, I awoke to rain. Cold, windy, miserable rain. I consulted with
my friend, and we determined that we would not be thwarted would proceed with our plans: meet an acquaintance for breakfast,
then find discount tickets to a Broadway matinee.
The problems started when I couldn't make coffee in my hotel room since housekeeping hadn't replenished the supplies. Then
I poked myself in the eye with my mascara wand. And once I stepped outside, my flimsy little umbrella showed a predilection
to live life inside-out rather than in a shape that would keep the raindrops off my head. But at least I had an umbrella,
unlike my friend, who improvised with a scarf wrapped around her head. (She looked like Audrey Hepburn but said the scarf
got soggy after a while.)
We were headed for a little place called Mark's Café recommended by the never-wrong Not For Tourists guide, so we got on a subway car and sat. And sat. Without moving. Many minutes later, we got off and waited for another
train. By this time we were very late for our breakfast date. After we finally arrived in the vicinity of our agreed-upon
restaurant, we walked. And walked. And walked. No Mark's Café anywhere. Not For Tourists had let us down. We were, after all, tourists.
Fortunately, we happened upon Cosmo's Diner. (In New York, restaurants seem to show up where you need them, when you need
them, kind of like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter.) At Cosmo's we partook of wonderful omelettes, pancakes, and conversation
with our friend, once we told her where to meet us.
But Times Square was miserable. People were jostling elbow to elbow (Darn tourists! we thought to ourselves), umbrella spokes poked us, and the marquee showed no productions in our price range that we actually
wanted to see. Tired, soaked, and cranky, we found a movie theater and saw a lame film instead.
Later, as we walked around the West Village in search of dinner, I noticed the inordinate number of dogs in the city. Big
dogs, small dogs, purebreds, mutts, groomed, scruffy. They trotted peacefully beside their owners, who also seemed content.
I felt better just looking at all these urban canines.
I realized that part of my trouble was likely due to the many-days absence of my own pet from my life. Have you noticed how
relaxed people are when their favorite animals are around? Pets bring out the best in us, and when they're absent, the worst
is left to rise to the top unchallenged. We eject pets from our experiences at the peril of our good attitudes and equilibrium.
So the next time I'm petless in a strange city, I intend to walk up to some friendly-looking dog-and-owner combo and get some
canine love. Then I'll thank that person for restoring my good humor—and so, I'm sure, will my traveling companions.