Friday, June 30, 2006

At the Chime of a City Clock


Every morning, Monday-Friday, I wake up ten minutes earlier than I have to, so I can use this stash of time to reach my office building at 8:45, instead of 8:55. This gives me a solid ten minutes of people-watching. I either sit with my coffee, at one of the tables in Bryant Park and I watch people or I walk, around 42nd street, and catch glimpses of people as they hurry past me. Either way, I am never at a loss for human scenery.

This past week, the people on these two stretches of land were particularly unusual. On Monday morning, as I stepped off the train at Grand Central and walked up to 42nd Street, I was confronted with snow on the sidewalk. For a split second, I panicked – as if Monday mornings were not gloomy enough, New York is presenting me with snow in June. After that instant, though, I realized I was being dramatic (it happens) and utterly gullible (which also happens). New York was just being cute, using piles of salt for snow on the set for some movie with that kid from Billy Elliot. Everybody else was rushing past, blithely walking through the snow. There were only a few of us who were fazed by this mid-summer apocalyptic winter wonderland, and I’m pretty sure, judging from the fanny packs and cameras, that the rest of the curiosity seekers were tourists.

And yesterday, at 8:35 in the morning, there were three Snapple hot air balloons floating above Bryant Park. I think this is some mode of extreme advertising, because there were acrobats hanging from these balloons, doing flips 100 feet above ground. After asking around, I found out that these were not actually professional acrobats; Snapple, in the process of promoting their new Green Apple White Tea, was offering free “para-bounce” balloon trips to anyone who weighs between 85-225 lbs, as long as they sign a release form. Again, this was a defining moment, setting the real New Yorkers apart from the rest of the world. To see people, in the foreground of these balloons, with their backs turned, speaking on their cell phones at the top of their voices, about private matters, completely ignoring the fact that there were three gigantic attention grabbers behind them -- it was us and them. In any other city, I assume, this would have been a spectacle, but in New York, it’s just any other morning.

I considered taking a quick balloon ride before work. Wait, that’s a lie. Truth: I never considered it, not even for a second, not even for a split second. Because of my aversion to heights, I do not think that the people of Bryant Park would appreciate a sea of puke dropped on their heads at 8:35 in the morning.


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