Here I am, in a new city and usually quite alone. I can’t say that I’m entirely alone, because I have the company of a rather large, hairy dog named Dante. Dante and I frequent a local dog park on an almost daily basis. The park is fenced (a must with Dante), enclosed by behemoth trees that give much appreciated shade, and is carpeted in a thick layer of bark mulch. The drinking fountain is out of order and the fence is slightly dilapidated, but it’s a ten minute walk from my apartment and it makes Dante’s day when we make the quick trip.
There are usually plenty of friendly dogs for him to chase and play with, and there usually are a few people for me to chat with as well. Some times it’s awkward, forced conversation and sometimes you click, and spend an hour or two watching dogs run and play while chatting away the time. Other times you sit at the old wooden picnic table amongst the mulch and dappled shade, throat sore, nose running and head pounding from a cold that ran up on you suddenly in your sleep the night before. That’s where I was today. Sick, miserable, but at the dog park. I had been balled up on the couch with a blanket and Grey’s Anatomy for as long as I could get away with this morning, but Dog Mom guilt and Dante’s sad puppy eyes finally got me up for a park visit. I choked down some cold medicine and popped a vitamin C before trying – and failing – to cover the redness of my nose with makeup.
We walked to the park, him pulling and wagging, me sniffling and coughing. It was busy when we arrived and the picnic table was full, so I stood and sniffled in a corner until there was room for me to sit. When I did I almost instantly regretted it. The woman seated in front of me was incessantly pestering her high-school aged son to take a quiz to determine the ideal dog breed for him. I’m not sure if it was my misery or her personality – think Kate from John & Kate plus 8 – or maybe a mixture of the two, but I felt at once annoyed at her and annoyed at myself for hearing her speak and instantly writing her off. Have you ever encountered someone and within one minute of meeting them you know you could never be friends? Of course you have. Even the most accepting and welcoming people have experienced that feeling. Maybe it’s mannerisms, vocal inflections or something more subtle, but some people rub you the wrong way. I wonder how many people have met me and felt that way about me. It’s hard to guess what other people think about you. It’s hard to know how others experience you.