|David Alfaro Siqueiros, "Our Present Image" (Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City)|
Last Father’s Day my wife bought me Air Pods Pro, a delightful pair of white ear buds. The sound quality is so pristine it brought tears to my eyes. The devices sleep in their own little sleek white lozenge that closes with a satisfying snap. Just the thing for the dad in your life and only $250.
Walking the dog around my leafy suburban paradise, I wear them, listening to podcasts and audio books and music. They do block out the world, so if Kitty starts straining toward a passing dog, I’ll ask “Is your dog friendly?” while plucking the tiny marvel out of my left ear so I can hear the reply.
Invariably, it is, and we humans chat superficially while our pets exchange sincere sniffs, tails wagging happily away. Then I slip the pod back in and float along like a bubble in the warm current of good feeling that is my life, for the most part.
There was that thin young man who approached me Monday on the three-block stretch that passes for a downtown. He had on the standard summer uniform: shorts, a baggy pastel oxford shirt, untucked. Perhaps more sunburnt than is typical. He could have been 30, could have been 50. Hard to tell in the three seconds I appraised him. He asked me something, I removed my earbud and smiled encouragingly, anticipating his question: sometimes people step off the train and need directions. I love giving directions. It makes me feel so useful.
“Can you buy me some food?” he said.
“No,” I replied curtly, automatically, jamming my Air Pod Pro back into my ear and hurrying away, surprised and rattled. I twisted my head, trying to track him out of the corner of my eye, in case he followed me.
Surprised because the refusal wasn’t me. I’m the sort of guy who would clap him on the back with a hearty “Of course!” and usher him into one of the fine eating establishments all around us. We were in front of Oliveri’s. Excellent lemon chicken. Across the street, Graeter’s, with its French pot process ice cream. That would perk up my new friend, and you’d now be reading the sad tale he’d unspool between bites of hot fudge sundae.
But that didn’t happen.
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