I am a person with no particularly noteworthy talents.
This is not to say that I’m not good at certain things, I am. But I’m not “talented.” Nothing comes naturally for me. If I want something, I have to pull it out of my ass with a lot of hard work and sweat and streaky kinds discipline-y kind of activities. (Like my streak on 750 words.)
But I am coming to see that there is one area in which I am truly remarkable, almost a freak of nature actually. But before I tell you what that is, I want to tell you a joke, okay? Here’s the joke. (If you’re not a rural person, you might not get it at first, but I’ll explain later.) Ready?
Why did the chicken cross the road?
(wait for it…)
To prove to the possum that it could be done.
I know. Hysterical, right? (yeah, no.)
Around these here parts (north- central PA) there’s a lot of road kill: skunks, deer, cats, woodchucks, and most of all, possums. (I know, I know, It’s technically “opposums” but nobody around her calls them that. They’re “possums.”) And they are notoriously oblivious of traffic and how to time a foray across a road. As a result, there are millions of rotting possum carcasses all along the rural roads of PA.
Here’s another joke about possums: “Possums are born dead along the side of the road.”
I tell you these jokes because today I was walking my dog around campus, and around town, (the way I do every day,) and I noticed for the bizillionth time that I was: 1. the only person not tapping into a screen. 2. the only person not talking on a phone. And 3. The only person without ear buds in my ears.
And not only was I not talking, texting, or listening to music, I didn’t even have a phone or an Ipod on me.
But (and here is the remarkable part) I had absolutely no anxiety about it. I didn’t “forget” my phone. I never carry it on my dog walk. I don’t want to talk to anyone on the dog walk. I just want to walk. I want to look at other people, and the landscaping on campus (the weeping cherries are in bloom and they are beautiful!) and watch my dog pinch out a nice tootsie-roll sized poop, and then kick her little back legs into the grass three times in triumphant satisfaction. I want to praise her, and then pick up the poop in my baggie.
If I was talking on the phone I might miss this amazing event.
As I watched all the preoccupied people on their phones and Ipods and Bluetooths, and as I steered myself out of their way so we wouldn’t collide (because they were totally preoccupied, and were totally oblivious of me and my Corgi) I thought of the possum joke.
(You were wondering when I would wind back to that, weren’t you?)
“Why did the woman walk the Corgi without texting?”
“To prove that it could be done.”
I think this is my special talent, my special ability: that I can do most things without my phone, and without missing my phone, or worrying/thinking about what I might be missing on my phone.
I feel like by not being engaged with a screen as I walk in public, I am providing living proof that it can be done. (Just like the chicken tried to prove to the possum.)
Also: Because I am not on a device, I can witness the cherry trees in bloom, smell the newly unfrozen earth, and look at cloud formations,. I can notice the subtle daily change in the landscape from winter to spring.
I can also witness you. I can notice your life, I can veer out of your way, and I can try to make eye contact. I can watch your reaction to my dog (if you even look up to notice her.)
I can witness you. I can see you. You can’t see me, I know, but I can see you.
And by being present and unpreoccupied, I can prove to you that it can be done.
That it, in fact, is.