Thursday, March 3, 2011
waiting for my cornell bookstore appointment
At around 7:30 this morning, as I sat in the window of Collegetown Bagels in Ithaca, New York, listening to the guy next to me explain Marcus Aurelius to his companion, the Ithaca Bakery delivery truck pulled up.
I watched the driver expertly unload and maneuver a precarious-looking trolley loaded with dozens of trays of perfectly formed, unbaked bagels. As he navigated the treacherous sidewalk, the wheels kept jamming: broken concrete, month old, salt-caked urban ice, and college town debris.
At one especially tricky bump- I held my breath- the top stories tipped and slid ominously. But some third eye apparently registered this, and with a quick, polished gesture he kept the rolling bagel tower intact. A simple, everyday man doing an ordinary task in an everyday job. Nobody seemed to notice.
But the small near calamity left a tiny dramatic postscript. As the trays shifted in that final jolt, a powdery dusting of cornmeal rose from the baking sheets and settled in a jagged rectangular shape on the frozen sidewalk. Almost instantly, two hungry sparrows descended, and began furiously pecking at the microscopic yellow dots.
A few seconds later, a third sparrow joined the group. But this one was more interested in prohibiting the other two from enjoying this surprise buffet than in feasting on it himself. He harassed one bird until it stopped eating, and then went to work on the other. For awhile, the first two took turns being diner and victim, one nibbling while the other endured an attack. But eventually both seemed to think the cornmeal wasn’t worth the bother, and flew off.
The bully bird, having won the prize, had no interest in actually consuming it, and also left. The grains of cornmeal slowly dispersed up Oak Avenue on the frigid Cayuga Lake wind.