Tired from a day of walking, I chose to take the subway to the Seven Minutes of Terror event -- something I rarely do and may not do again for sometime. I nearly boarded a train in the wrong direction, thus losing $2.50, and while crossing the street to the correct subway, I nudged some piece of sidewalk who-knows-what.
Actually, I know what. Lucky, me I decided to look back at what I'd toed and saw -- wait for it -- a dead rat.
When I first arrived, there was a subtle hum about Mars and lasers and alien life drifting through the crowd. But mostly there were people navigating the slippery TKTS stairs, taking group photos in foam Liberty hats, and gawking at themselves on one truly massive screen that reflected the square below it.
By 1:00am on Monday -- around 30 minutes to touchdown -- the stairs had closed, many Mars fans had retired their squints, and even the American Eagle sign had posted away messages.
My disappointment was thawed by footage of Mission Control's endless embraces as I weaved my way home through the crowd, many of whom continued to watch for the awe-inspiring moment that would signal the release of their collective gaze. I'm still unsure whether these people were unaware that Curiosity had landed or if they were in denial that such a landmark event could seem so subtle. But it was that belated attention -- sprinkled with the occasional smirk of vicarious accomplishment -- that assured me that the viewing was nearly a success.
In the end, my experience was small and I am due to address the bigger picture: congratulations NASA, congratulations Curiosity, and sorry dead rat, I didn't mean to kick you.