In someone else's shoes  AUG 16 2002

Some friends of ours were away on vacation, so Meg and I spent last weekend up in sunny Sonoma County flat/cat sitting for them. My favorite part about staying at someone else's house is all the exploring you get to do. I'm not talking about snooping around looking for porno under the mattress or thumbing through diaries. I'm referring to the casual perusal of the household as you're going about the business of living in that space.

You might think to yourself, "I'm bored. Let's see what I can watch on television." Hmmmm, their cable is different than ours. They get TLC? And they don't TiVo Trading Spaces? That seems weird. Their DVD player seems thinner than ours...is it better?

I needed a band-aid but didn't pack any so I peeked into the medicine cabinet. I was greeted by an array of unfamiliar brands. Can I trust my well-being to any of these brands? Tylenol? Why not Advil? That generic cold medicine seems dangerous, risky at best. At least the band-aids are Band-Aids...I can safely cover my small blister with one of those.

Hunger sends me to the kitchen. The refrigerator doesn't contain any of my favorite flavors of soda, but there's a much greater selection of beverages than at our house. It's like a bar in there. And the condiments...you only see this many condiments at the supermarket. Their choice of ketchup brand rattles me. Have I been using the wrong stuff all this time? They have ice cream. I used to buy ice cream, but not so much anymore. They haven't stopped purchasing ice cream, why did I?

The inhabitants of this particular residence have an higher-than-average selection of books, more books than Meg and I have even, and of very good quality. Having brought six books between us to last the weekend, we spent the first 45 minutes after our arrival scouring the shelves for stuff to read, envious of what we found there. Out of the hundreds of thousands of books published every year, they had selected the finest; we have obviously been wasting our time literature-wise. In my awe, I may have failed to place the books on the bedside table back in their proper order in the stack; I'd hate to think that I've disturbed someone's delicate reading queue, as if they'll return and start reading the wrong book by mistake just because it was on top instead of its previous position of third from the top.

The bed is bigger and more comfortable. The bath towels aren't as large, but they sure smell nice. The exercise equipment looks used; mine is not generally utilized. I looked around at this space that's temporarily ours, possessing their stuff in my mind, comparing it with our similar possessions back home and trying to reconcile the similarities and differences with what I know about these people and myself. Now that I'm back in my apartment with all of our stuff, it feels a bit incomplete; it's missing all of my newly-gained temporary possessions. Maybe a new book or two would set things right. And it might be time to investigate alternatives to my current ketchup choice.

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