Watch, wait and won­der

An adorable lit­tle chap, he was great mates with ladies of the night and burly bounc­ers

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - GRAHAM ER­BACHER Su­san Kuro­sawa is on an­nual leave.

Now here’s a con­fes­sion that will di­vide loy­al­ties. I like air­ports. I ar­rive early and, with check-in out of the way, I en­joy a leisurely view of the planes and my fel­low trav­ellers. In de­par­ture lounges, cafes or on the street I in­dulge in the not-too-men­tally-tax­ing pas­time of peo­ple-watch­ing. It’s fu­elled by a cu­rios­ity about fel­low hu­man be­ings, and what their lives are like, where they are off to. The an­swers are all in the imag­i­na­tion, although mo­bile-phone con­ver­sa­tions of­ten let me know rather too much de­tail.

A few years ago I was pay­ing fre­quent vis­its to New York, my favourite city. I would stay at a ho­tel near the Wal­dorf As­to­ria (note the word “near”). Mine was a rea­son­able ho­tel, but af­ter plac­ing my lug­gage on the only avail­able floor space in the gue­stroom and check­ing essen­tials, such as whether the plumb­ing worked, I would spruce my­self up and head to the Wal­dorf, or­der a man­hat­tan cock­tail, sit close to Cole Porter’s pi­ano and ab­sorb the magic. “There are eight mil­lion sto­ries in the naked city” would run through my mind and I would try to cre­ate just one or two. Ev­ery­one in the foyer was a Brangelina, of course, and while per­fec­tion is pleas­ant for a short while, di­ver­sity adds the spice.

There is an eti­quette to peo­ple-watch­ing in com­pany. Foghorn voices and point­ing are not on. I have a dis­creet sotto voce but my travel com­pan­ion (who does not like air­ports and oth­er­wise ac­cuses me of mum­bling) is hor­ri­fied if I dare to make a com­ment un­til the ob­served is over the hill and far, far away. Some­times the mo­ment is lost.

On the other hand, I have a dog, Os­car, with a sharp eye for hu­man aber­ra­tion. If he spots some­thing un­usual he will sit, wait and watch; no amount of liver-treat en­treaties will get him to budge. He spent pup­py­hood in Syd­ney’s Kings Cross and Dar­linghurst, so there was no short­age of sideshow ec­centrics, and walks could take a while. An adorable lit­tle chap, he would be pounced on for a pat by the pe­cu­liar and the plain, and was great mates with ladies of the night and burly bounc­ers.

Only once was there clear and present dan­ger. One early evening we were out to pick up a pizza when there was a ker­fuf­fle be­hind us as a not-too-pleas­ant guy at­tempted to im­press his qual­i­fi­ca­tions on a girl. Os­car’s head swiv­elled, he an­chored bot­tom to pave­ment; clearly, we had peo­ple to watch. The girl saw her es­cape and headed for the pup. So many ques­tions — his name, breed, age, height, weight, eat­ing habits. We were more than happy to help out with long an­swers, but the guy was get­ting edgy and I planted my­self be­tween his chunky boots and the dog.

Fi­nally, the oaf ad­mit­ted de­feat and moved off, his Satur­day night dreams ru­ined by a spaniel. But he had a part­ing snarl of ad­vice: “Get that [you guess the next word] dog home, mate.”

The grate­ful girl smiled and planted a lip­stick kiss on Os­car’s head. A gallant peo­ple-watcher had won the day.

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