I have a cat and I have a canary and watching them is more entertaining than working on a column and possibly more entertaining than reading one as well. But this morning, after spending a fair amount of time sitting at my computer watching my pets instead of writing, I had the following brilliant insight: I need to get out more.
I need to travel, see the world and experience new things. My pets don’t travel much, nor do I want them to, but their sheltered existence gives them a skewed view of the world, and maybe mine does too—the way a fish in a fishbowl thinks the ocean is tiny and has a glass wall all the way around it.
Mr. Tweeters—he’s the canary; you probably guessed that—has lived in a cage his whole life. And for most of that time, the cage has been in the same bay window in my office. I bet he thinks this room is the entire world, though he’s never actually said so.
On one side of his cage is a window that, I admit, could be washed more often. On the other side, there’s stacks of office clutter. The sun rises and sets at different times every day. It all depends on what time I get around to putting the blanket on the cage for the night and removing it the next morning. From his viewpoint, it’s a jungle out there.
But, as far as my canary knows, other creatures are fairly benign, though they can’t sing worth a darn. But then, he hasn’t seen—or heard—many creatures. Mostly he sees the cat lounging on top of the bird cage and me sitting here by the computer muttering.
Despite the fact that he’s just inches away from a predator, Tweeters goes about his business, unconcerned. It’s like if I trusted lions just because I’ve never been attacked at a zoo.
The cat has traveled a bit more than the bird, but he hasn’t really enjoyed it. Once when he was a kitten, he tried to travel out of the garage at the precise moment the door was coming down. He wasn’t hurt, but he decided then and there that he doesn’t care for travel, at least via the garage. That’s like if I were to give up flying after surviving a plane crash, which come to think of it, I probably would.
My husband and I reinforce the cat’s travel fears by occasionally forcing him into the car and taking him to the vet’s office. That is never a pleasant experience for him, and he has a way of making it pretty unpleasant for us too.
As far as the cat knows, the world is a violent and frightening place, at least when you leave through the garage. He’s content to stay in his little neighborhood—my house—where everyone loves him, the temperature is always between 68 and 72, and there’s a treat jar.
If my pets ever bolted out the back door and took off exploring on their own, they’d soon learn that both temperatures and food supplies vary widely. And they’d discover that some creatures are dangerous, and that many sing better than the one sitting at the computer every day.
Yes, these are the things I think about when I tell my family not to disturb me because I’m working. I told you I need to get out more.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)