In the lunch hour on Tuesday, a man in his twenties, wearing a windbreaker and slacks, leaned against a tree in Friendship Park. Occasionally, he would peer around the edge of the tree, down Friendship Avenue, but when he didn’t find what he was looking for he quickly hid behind the trunk again. After numerous unsuccessful glances, he finally spotted someone. He waved wildly. Aside from the people driving cars and riding bikes up from East Liberty, the only person in view was a woman his age slowly coming up the sidewalk, but when she noticed him and waved back, he ducked behind the trunk again.
The woman took her time. She crossed at the crosswalk, several yards down the block, rather than at the shortest point of the intersection. Once she got closer, the reason for her caution became clear: she had a baby girl strapped into a harness on her chest.
The man continued to hide as the woman followed the meandering sidewalk through the park, rather than cut diagonally across the grass. As she looped around the narrow end of the strip the man scooted around the tree so that the trunk always remained between him and the woman carrying the baby. When the woman finally reached the tree, the man jumped out to surprise the baby, his daughter most likely. But the baby merely shrugged.
Then, on Wednesday morning, toward the start of rush hour, a completely different man, wearing a business suit and a baby harness, pushed his bike toward the intersection of Penn and Main. The suspended baby, bundled in the cold, held the plastic lid from a pint of yogurt in her mouth. A comma of snot curled from her left nostril onto her upper lip.
The crossing guard rushed over waving a tissue.
“Tis the season,” the father said, noticing the snot.
The crossing guard wiped the baby’s nose. “There you go, Lulu,” she said.
“Thanks,” the father said. “I’ll take that.”
“It’s no problem,” the crossing guard said. “I’ll just put it in my pocket.”