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May I See Your Badge, Please

On Friday I had one of those encounters that can jump you out of your routine and remind you that there is other life around you. I was wearing my Office-to-Home-Commute blinkers, focusing on my walk to the Metro station and already mentally  standing on the platform wondering about when the train would arrive. And then there it was: a grey shape lumbering across my field of vision, maybe 3 feet in front of me on the sidewalk. A raccoon. Up close like that, it was much bigger than I would have expected it to be, although I should know better. It was moving at a steady lumber, small head and front paws hunched forward before the bulk of its rump.

Upon reaching the curb, it started nosing down into the storm drain, poking its head inside until only its tail, ringed and furry but not nearly as bushy as often depicted in children’s books illustrations, signaled its presence. At this point I’m rooted to the spot, my commuting thoughts have jumped the track and I have arrived in the present. Watching this tail hanging out of a storm drain and hoping for another look at its owner. I inch a few steps closer, trying to angle myself for a better look into the storm drain because right now I’m on the curb side and can see only the top and the tail moving around on the edge of the drain. And then it must have heard me, or been alerted in some way because suddenly the raccoon pops up out of the drain, sitting up on its hind legs and we are staring right at each other. It sort of leans back on its ample butt and eyes me – a full  scrutiny from a small masked face and a very cute little nose. And I know form cute noses, having one myself and also being a fan of guinea pigs and other small mammals.

There we are, mammal to mammal, on the sidewalk and in the curb. And while I’m still attempting to appear as non-threatening as possible, the raccoon has read me, judged me harmless and uninteresting and gone back into the storm drain to root for delicacies perhaps. Back to its routine, of which I know nothing, leaving me back with my routine, of which it knows just enough to scavenge a successful living on the sidelines. When even its tail vanishes I rejoin the evening rush hour. But for a moment, a glimpse of the wildlife that exists around us even in our cities reminded me that there are other realities surrounding us. It’s nice to get that memo occasionally.

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