On rubber ducks and secrets

Sometimes when I really like something, I keep it a secret. Do you ever do that?

It’s always tempting to brag when you find the newest great thing – the new shop with delicious bread, the new book that I just finished, the cutest pair of new sandals. Part of me just wants to share, with everyone in my path, how excited I am, how lucky I feel. Sometimes I want to spark an interesting conversation, sometimes I just want to feel generous.

But here’s the thing. Once you share the greatest new thing, once you make your opinion known, people will take your advice. They will check out that new shop. They will download the book on their Kindles. And in a week or two, you will hear from some other acquaintance that they just LOVE this new shop around the corner. You will overhear on the train that so-and-so can’t tear herself away from your favorite book.

Will you feel glad to brighten someone’s day? Maybe. If you are a saint.

Me? I feel a little disappointed. A lot less special. My secret is out. The thing is, I really like having a secret. I like to know without a doubt that I see something in a special way. While everyone else runs into the grocery store to grab a loaf of bread before dinner, I know that the best baguette is on offer at that little shop around the corner from the Y. If I just run in with the boys after swim class, we can pick up our bread while we grab some donuts for a snack. Two birds with one stone. And there will still be time to wander by the rose garden on the way home.

Why does keeping things a secret make them more special to me? Am I weird that way? Perhaps. But I just read this article in The Wall Street Journal, about the Hong Kong rubber duck installation. In case you haven’t heard about it, a 50-foot yellow duck is calling Victoria Harbor home for a while. Hundred of thousands of visitors have flocked to see the bird. Is the artist proud? Well, yes. And no. “On one hand,” the artist, Florentijn Hofman, commented, “I felt very happy, and thought, wow, so many people are coming to see it. But on the other hand, I thought, how can you really see the duck now? Can you really get it?”

It’s true. If your view of the duck is so obscured by the back of other people’s heads, by their iPhones up in the air, blocking your view of its beak, can you ever truly experience the duck? To experience something authentically, you need to sneak up on it, early in the morning or last thing at night. Perhaps during the day while everyone else is too busy to notice. You need to be alone, unencumbered by friends or children. You must be stealthy and silent. You approach on tiptoe, hiding behind the closest building or bench. You peer out over the water and get the clearest view of the huge yellow duck, its orange beak, its cheerful eyes. You notice how it juxtaposes itself against the staid buildings, how it bobs and floats happily in the bay, how the sun streams off of its yellow back and air-filled wings. You know it’s just a toy, a silly thing, but for one instant you see it as it really is, and you are filled with happiness.

24 thoughts on “On rubber ducks and secrets

    1. I don’t always hate crowds, but I do think that to really appreciate something, you need a certain amount of solitude. unfortunately, I usually have at least two of my kids in tow!

  1. This is a gorgeous piece. I like your writing a lot. This is the way I feel about bands I like or restaurants, chefs, anything that once popular, the price goes up, the lines get longer, it becomes less accessible, less intimate. I’m always happy for the successor such things; the fact that they are receiving much deserved recognition, but the dynamic changes. Still…I’d love to see that duck. 😉

  2. Im with Linda as soon as the dynamic shifts because of too much attraction I lose interest or like you become dissapointed. Still I too go to things like the duck installation…go figure.

  3. “To experience something authentically, you need to sneak up on it, early in the morning or last thing at night.” I love that. Thanks.

  4. This is how I felt when a movie was made from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It kind of bothered me that people who didn’t even like to read were going to know all about it.

    1. I feel that way about lots of books made into movies! And I am especially mad if I haven’t had a chance to read the book before it was made into a movie, if it sounds good.

  5. We have a new burger and BBQ joint right around the corner from us. It is awesome. And I don’t want to tell anyone about it. I don’t want to share it. I want it to me all mine. So, I may know what you’re talking about. 🙂

  6. I totally get this! Weird, I was just writing something about this the other day. Hmm I feel a new blog post coming on after reading that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  7. Damn, that’s a big duck. I wonder what I would have done if that was the first thing I saw through the periscope of my submarine after coming to periscope depth.

  8. It’s funny, I feel validation when I share my secret awesome discovery with people and they love it. That says something not-so-flattering about me and my need for approval…

  9. Great piece! I love the description of the duck in the harbor, I think back to my Hong Kong trip and I can totally picture it. Oh, and I know how you feel! I used to guard bands as if they existed only to make music for my ears. Once a band had a hit song, I felt crushed that everyone now knew. I’ve outgrown that feeling, I think…

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