Christopher tm Herdt (cherdt) wrote,
Christopher tm Herdt
cherdt

Apple of Eris

Last night I was in Penn Station in NYC, waiting for an Amtrak train back to Philly. There was an old tennis ball on the floor, rolling slowly away from a group of people clustered under the departures sign.

I didn't pay much attention to it until, jarred by a passing traveller, it rolled towards a very stuffy-looking older couple. The woman made an open V with her feet and caught the ball. Probably used to have kids in youth soccer. She looked around, vaguely annoyed, as if she'd been the target of some prank. She turned and gave it a little putt with her instep towards a gaggle of miniskirts, little black dresses, and heels.

One of the girls took a break from tugging at the hem of her dress to make sure she wasn't violating indecent exposure law and turned around. She stared down a trio of guys. "Did you do that?" she accused. I don't know if the guys knew who the real culprit was, but if they did they kept mum. They shrugged.

The girl tried to pass the tennis ball along, but somehow got it wedged between the heel and the toe of her shoe. Suddenly she was off-balance, swaying on one foot, clutching at a friend for balance. She kicked her foot against the floor once, twice, but the tennis ball just became more firmly stuck. Finally, another friend reached down and removed the tennis ball with her hand and dropped it on the floor.

A young man passing by picked it up.

"Ew, I wouldn't touch that if I were you," one of the girls said.

"Why not?"

"I just wouldn't," she said.

He seemed to think about it for a second, and then he threw it hard against the ground. It was a beat-up old tennis ball and didn't have much bounce left in it, but it hopped a couple times, past a flinching teenage girl, past a man leaning on a barrier marked "Do not lean on barrier," and came to rest not far from there, more-or-less away from foot traffic.

It was marvelous. Where had it come from? I wished I had a bag of tennis balls with a tear in the bottom, so that as I walked a new fuzzy, bouncy agent of chaos would emerge.

Nicola told me that the bomb-sniffing dogs are given tennis balls as rewards. That explained why it looked slightly chewed upon. Hail Eris, the German shepherd!
Tags: chaos, new york, penn station, tennis ball
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