I don't sleep as well as I used to, so when I am awakened in the middle of the night, it threatens my normally sunny mood. Last night, my neighbor's dog Would. Not. Shut. Up. It barked and barked and barked as I watched the clock turn from 1:15 a.m to 2:05 a.m to 2:29 a.m. I lay in bed, increasingly discomfited, thinking, "What in the world is the matter with those people? Why don't they let the damn dog inside?"
It reminded me of a few months before, when I was awakened night after night over the course of a few weeks by a cat in heat moaning in my backyard. If you haven't heard the plaintive call of a female cat in heat, you can't imagine exactly how much it sounds like a baby in distress. After a while, I wanted to find her a boy cat just so she could be satisfied and shut the hell up. Aspiring kitty pimp: probably not my finest moment.
So why is it that, when on vacation in Botswana, I was simply enchanted to be awakened in the middle of the night by the low, guttural roar of a lioness on the hunt?
At least at the time I believed it was a lioness. It may have been a lion.
Or the nighttime when I was so excited to hear what I was absolutely certain were rare wild dogs barking, but which my guide assured me the next morning, were definitely baboons.
Even when a rooster began crowing what seemed like mere minutes after I dozed off, I remember being kind of excited to have experienced yet another bit of rainforest wildlife close up and personal.
So what is it about traveling that makes us happily accept things that would be serious annoyances at home? Uncomfortable, loud hotel rooms? Overcharging taxi drivers? Food prepared under what could only charitably be called "un-hygenic conditions?" Standing-room only on un-airconditioned buses? Pre-dawn flights? Seventeen hour layovers? Stinging insects as big as your palm? SQUAT TOILETS??
I don't know. Perhaps we tend to have a more flexible attitude when on vacation--a sense that "different" can be cool. So while the ordinary noises of a domestic dog or cat can cause us to indulge in murderous fantasies, the loud, endlessly repetitive noise of a hippo grazing outside of our tent is cause for great excitement.
Thinking about this last night, I decided that, if I could just shift into my travel-attitude mode, I could pretend that the neighbor's rotten little mutt was a wild African dog. Then, instead of annoying, his barking would be a remarkable experience.
It worked. For a few minutes. Then I felt irritation returning, so I put the extra pillow over my head and willed myself back to sleep. I guess that whole Pollyanna imagining thing is going to take a little more practice.
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