"I think you can awaken curiosity. I don't think you can teach it," explained Diane Sawyer on OWN's marquee series, Master Class. In just two sentences, the anchor of ABC's World News summed up my entire worldview. Curiosity, despite what it's been accused of concerning cats, has given me life. It's the intangible glue in all my grown-up decisions. But it's also what cuts my list of potential matches in half.
Curiosity, I've learned recently, is a trait I've got in my genes. Earlier this week, while walking home from the post office, I noticed a man who looked wrong. Wearing jeans and a faded hoodie, he was teetering dangerously on the homeless side of hipster while swinging an infant car carrier without a car in sight. In passing, I peeked inside to make sure it didn't, in fact, hold a baby. It did.
So, because I'm someone who once walked a block behind a lost-looking 8-year-old for 10 minutes, I eyed Homeless Hipster Dad longer than is safe for street strangers. He ducked into the alley on the side of my building as I hopped up the stairs two at a time in order to catch him from my bedroom window. The baby was crying. It was freezing out and he seemed unfazed, yet fidgety.
At first I figured I should leave it alone. I had a package filled with bathing suits for next week's trip to Barbuda, and those things can't try themselves on. Plus, maybe he really was a hipster, just enjoying the crisp weather with baby Bjork. But modeling two-pieces suddenly seemed not only selfish but absolutely un-American.
How could I be preparing for a trip to another country when something shady was going down in my own backyard — sort of? So, still wearing a pink string bikini, I crouched beside my window, listening and sneaking peeks at the alley two stories below. I waited for him and the baby to start making sense in their surroundings. Thirty degrees and diapers never do.
My call to 911 started with an apology. I didn't want to bother anyone, but also I didn't want a 9-month-old to get traded for narcotics. The dispatcher thanked me genuinely, and less than five minutes later, three cop cars pulled up on my corner. Later, a very cute police officer informed me that Homeless Dad had decided to take his daughter shopping with him. And they weren't buying baby food. Apparently, the alley under my window moonlights as a street pharmacy at 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesdays.
"Everything," is all I could come up with. We're still friends.
After the officer finished taking down my information, I headed back to my apartment to finish packing for Barbuda, a place I'd never heard of before someone suggested we go. The other day, a "friend" asked why I was going. "What's there?" he asked.
"Um, I don't know. Awesomeness?" I told this same person that the reason I went to Morocco was that I'd never been before. That wasn't enough for him.
"There's a lot of places you haven't been," he answered.
"You're right," I said. And the conversation stopped there.
Smart cats know that curiosity doesn't really kill; there's more to life than lazing about. For some, staring down strangers, lurking in alleys and sneaking peeks out the window are just everyday occurrences. For others, it's a recipe for danger. Neither approach is better than the other; they're just different.