If you were an animal, what would you be?
It is something of a clichéd question. One commonly encountered in interviews, get-to-know-you games, and personality tests. There are typical answers: lion, otter, eagle.
Me? I think I’d be a squirrel. I can never sit still, I’m always dashing around the city in a helter-skelter way. Not exactly a klutz or uncoordinated, but I’m certainly not graceful. I might fall out of a tree, but I’ll bounce right back up again like it never happened. You can call me a hard worker, resourceful and madly adaptable. Quick and clever and cute, but I’m not cuddly, or chipmunk-adorable. If you f— with me I will piercingly chatter my head off at you. And just as squirrels overturn bird feeders, I’ve been known to be kind of a jerk, sometimes taking a joke too far.
Also, I’ve been known to cram nuts into my cheeks. See, I’m a jerk! I’ll take a joke too far even at my own expense!
Why else would I be a squirrel? Because I live in New York City, like so many of these furry creatures. Take a walk in any city park and you will see dozens of squirrels skittering around, digging holes, burying nuts. Locals don’t give squirrels a second glance. Tourists, on the other hand, they go crazy over squirrels.
Perhaps it’s because they look so cute (like I said, I can relate) and they’re remarkably ballsy- so unafraid of humans that they will actually jump on you if you let them. Maybe visitors go gaga over squirrels because any other wildlife they are likely to encounter in this city is disgusting- rats, pigeons, cockroaches.
I watched this group of squirrels steal the scene in Union Square. Surrounding observers fought for their attention, coaxing the animals with bits of food, making chirping noises to draw them closer. A blond woman, whose obvious beauty would have her rarely vying for attention, was desperate for the affections of a squirrel. She offered her hand, courting and cajoling, smiling with triumphant glee when the object of her desire at last gave in an scampered up her pant-leg.
I watched all this amused and of course I rolled my eyes. That’s what New York inhabitants do when we see the silly antics of tourists. We shake our heads, roll our eyes, and mutter “tourists.” It’s almost cliché. While taking photographs for this post, I was extremely self-conscious, knowing any New Yorker who saw me with my camera out would assume I was a tourist. It’s a pride thing- no one who calls NYC home likes being mistaken for someone who doesn’t. If you don’t want to be mistaken for a tourist, don’t feed the squirrels.
I’m lucky. I got any desire to feed rodents out of my system as a child.