It took me a few tries. Four to be exact. “Gerbil, hamster, rat, mouse?”, I commented frantically to my good friends who own this precious little being. Their Facebook comment header: “The terror in her eye is for the rapids ahead.” “Guinea pig!”, was the response with an expected exclamation mark as I should have remembered. As well, I needed to reconnect via text for her name. “That one is S’Mores. The yellow one is Nilla.” Ah, Nilla … the second of the two I also forgot they had. So, to summarize here: four attempts at the pet type? Failure. Remembering her name? Failure. Recalling they had not one but TWO? Failure. Oh, boy.
Acknowledging the cuteness of this guinea pig? Success.
I’m not a small pet kind of guy. Maybe you are. Any living creature worthy of one hand palm-holding while eating a ham sandwich out of the other isn’t really a pet in my mind. It’s just me. A book, pack of baseball cards, phone, remote, the inside of a half-eaten bag of caramel popcorn? … Anything keeping that other hand busy at the moment is more valuable to me than something small, inhaling, and furry. I wouldn’t do a thing to harm them, mind you, or be critical of anyone – like my friends – who love them. Just not my thing. I can, however, look at pictures like the one above and say to myself, “Geesh, that’s cute.”
We have to be willing to concede softness in our lives. Make room for pleasurable moments and at the same time accept they aren’t for us, but for others. A kind-of half way, emotional embracing when we can say to ourselves, “That’s really nice. Not for me, but I won’t judge. Just not my thing.”
The other afternoon, I sat alone in a restaurant and observed the most curious of events. An older man sat near the middle of the small room with whom I can assume was a friend. Next to them, nearby, sat two ladies – younger by a few years in their late 60’s early 70’s. Behind both tables in a booth, a dad and his daughter sat quietly. Neither said a word as each was intently staring at their phone except to occasionally request a refill or condiment. One other booth next to me was occupied by one laborer on a lunch break who decided a b.l.t. with a side of fries and coke satisfied his quick half hour lunch time.
I didn’t expect that small community of eight – including me with hungry eyes full of a juicy burger with dripping swiss cheese and mushrooms, a side of hot fresh-cut fries, and a large glass of cold diet Pepsi – to develop into a connection between that day and a guinea pig. Somehow, it did. The last day in March and the second day in April, 2021. Here we are.
A discussion began at the table where the two men sat. I believe it started over the concern about our area needing to change the way local calls are going to be dialed. There’s a change to a ten digit numbering system from the standard seven digit norm. Change is hard … especially for an older generation. I get that. The one gentleman became a bit agitated at having to remember the slightest change (remembering to dial those extra three same digits before every call). His demeanor and vocal rhythm changed with every attempt at understanding the new system. The ladies at the nearby table gently explained the timing of the phone company’s implementation and the reasoning behind it, but this didn’t matter. He wasn’t disrespectful or rude, just becoming less comfortable. I believe this was the catalyst for what followed.
His attention a bit distracted, he leaned over my way and commented about the dad and daughter sitting over in the booth. “See. That’s what’s wrong with society today. Nobody is talking to each other anymore. Those darn cell phones! Look at that!”, as he clearly, and loudly, directed those words toward them.
I nodded my head in the direction of the dad and daughter, silently eating their fried haddock and burger, as if to say, “It’s ok..”, and put my hand up in a conciliatory manner to avoid any confrontation. Fortunately, they understood the situation and continued on with their screen time. I quietly agreed with the gentleman because this was the best way to ease the tension at the moment.
I’ve been thinking about that exchange for a few days. Why didn’t he take a second, look over at the dad and daughter, and say to himself: “That’s really nice. Not for me, but I won’t judge. Just not my thing.”? Well, because he’s old and really set in his ways, probably.
I’m fortunate to have the mind, still, to look over there and think: Did they just lose a loved one and can’t talk to each other yet? Is she having a difficult time in school and doesn’t know how to ask her dad for help? Is he a single dad trying to raise his daughter? Did they just need some nice time together? … The possibilities are endless. Yes, these phones are a problem. I get that. I can say, though, looking at those two in the booth a few days ago, it was nice seeing a dad and daughter together. I won’t judge why they weren’t talking. It was fascinating to look over every few minutes, granted, but the why behind the silence is their business. Period.
I will concede that pleasurable time and quiet to them, however, it’s not for me. I like to talk to those in my company at the table. Yes, I DO occasionally text and check my phone when dining with friends and family. These darn cell-mates have become personal prisoners with whom we’ve become very friendly.
As to the cute guinea pig in the kayak? I have S’Mores amore until I forget her name again. She has some rough rapids ahead according to the comment. We do, too. Life isn’t easy.
We can make all this a bit simpler by backing off our pre-conceived ideas about right and wrong, good and bad. Look at others and appreciate their moments – accept their lives, their situations and nothing more. See that? “That’s really nice. Not for me, but I won’t judge. Just not my thing.”
Be silent. Talk up a storm. Own a guinea pig or a large giraffe. Whatever you do, I will acknowledge your cuteness in doing so. Don’t ask me to hold a ham and swiss on rye in my free hand while doing so, however.