I was sitting in Washington Square Park, enjoying my lunch, when a woman stopped in front of me. "Do you love poetry? Especially when it's short and happy, like me?" My attack response was engaged—I assumed she was a charity mugger—but then I saw the "free hugs" sign on her shirt.
"I hope you have a lovely day," I said, very slowly.
"And I hope you have a lovelier day," she replied.
"Me too." If someone's day has to win, it might as well be mine. After congratulating myself for being pleasant to an aggressive stranger, I spent the next few minutes mulling over why it's so aggravating to be interrupted while eating—worse when it's during lunch, worst of all when you're eating a sandwich. Am I the only person who thinks sandwich time is sacred?
A few minutes later, a teenager sat down next to me. "Beautiful day!" the kid said, so I ignored him. He tried again, this time clearly directing it at me: "Hey, do you know what that festival is for?" It appeared to be for India, I told him, which he mistook as encouragement. "Would you answer a question?" he asked. "What's the one piece of advice you'd give someone like me, who's young and just starting out?" So much ran through my mind: Don't point out your youth to older people. Don't get a pet monkey. Don't interrupt a man when he's eating a sandwich. But what I said was, "Never go to a party on a boat." And I got up and left.