Change of Scenery

We can all use a change of scenery once in a while, right? On a recent morning, Jackson Square in New Orleans proved to be more change than I could handle.

It’s sunny and warm. I scout a bench in the shade, per my dermatologist’s instructions, facing St. Louis Cathedral. A city worker washes the circular walkway around the statue of Andrew Jackson on his horse. The growl of the power-washer’s motor, coupled with the ungentle spray of water, creates a background of white noise that allows me to concentrate.  Soon I am lost in my book.

Until I hear a child’s shriek from 1 o’clock. Looking up, I spy a parade of school uniforms winding around the path toward Jackson’s horse. Their teacher quiets the shrieker—and his cadre of giggling classmates—as she returns a baseball cap to his head.  The cool breeze rolling off the Mississippi must have boosted it to freedom.

The gentleman sitting beside me snaps his laptop shut as he is joined by some friends. I cannot help but eavesdrop; this is why I came to the park. They’re heading to Cafe Du Monde for a snack before meeting their guide for a walking tour of the French Quarter.

I am alone, but only for a moment. Two women, about my age and dressed for a business meeting, arrive immediately. Placing their coffee cups beside their stylish shoes, they dig into their paper bags and chat amiably, but I can barely hear their voices under the chugging of the motor.

pressure washer web

Enough people watching, I remind myself. I look back down at my book and try to reposition my left leg, which has fallen asleep. I imagine that the wrought iron has left a cross-hatched pattern on my bottom.

Time passes slowly. I need a deadline, I think. I decide to sit on this uncomfortable bench until the city worker cuts the motor and relocates to the other side of the statue.

The women stand up to leave. They are shaking their legs and stamping their feet like racehorses waiting to be released from the starting gate. “At least I’m not covered  in powdered sugar like last time,” one says to the other.

Dulcet tones of laughter accompany them to the trash can opposite the bench.  I am aware of each sound: the crinkling of balled up paper bags as they open slightly, the clicking of heels on cobblestone as they recede and, in the distance, the quiet humming of a city worker as he tilts a silenced machine onto its back wheels.

I have missed my cue, I think. With lingering disappointment, I snap some photographs of the scenery before making a grand exit.


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