Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hey, I'm walking here!

To paraphrase (badly) a passage from one of the great John D. MacDonald's books:

Overweight people shouldn't run. It is not good for society that they be seen even walking fast. His character, Meyer's, theory was that when you see trim healthy people jogging down a beach or down a sunny street you think “Isn't that wonderful, -- Healthy, exuberant people exercising.” When you see a round, out of shape person running down the beach you begin to look behind them to see what is chasing them. And, when you don't see what is chasing them, you look after them, and see them continuing to run; panting, sweating, moving down the beach. That's when you begin to worry about whatever it is that is chasing them, that you can't see. And so you begin to walk after them, slowly at first, and then faster. And then faster still as you try to make sure that you are at least a couple paces ahead of the other people who are doing what you are doing, trying to get away from whatever evil, terrifying monster is chasing the fat guy. Pretty soon you have a mob of frightened, panicked people running through the streets. Chaos ensues and calamity follows...

In short: Fat people shouldn't run. It's not healthy for the community.

What reminded me of the passage above was this: I went for a walk today.

Whether I'm fat or not is open for discussion. I am somewhat round, but cuddly. My blood pressure is good. I can jog a mile and still have the strength to dial 911 if necessary and I can still both see and tie my own shoes without passing out. How overweight am I? Depends upon who's trying to sell me the diet plan. There are some "experts" out there that think that anyone bigger around than an Olsen twin is overweight.

Having recently discovered a desire to take better care of myself and to be around a little longer, I've started walking whenever I can: To work, from work, to lunch. Take the stairs not the elevator...

But it isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Not that I can't get out the door and walk, I can. But I can't seem to keep walking. People keep stopping me to ask me if I need a ride.

Life in a small town can be like that. When everybody knows most everybody, and is friendly to most of the folks they know, they do that. Every third or fourth car has someone in it you know. They'll see you walking and pull up in front of you.

“Hey neighbor, need a ride?”

“No, thanks. I'm just out walking.”

“Really?” they say. Then they pause for a moment and try not to let their faces give away their amusement and disbelief. “Well..., good for you.”

Of course by then they've stopped you, and you're talking with them. There's a certain etiquette that is required of these things in a small town. You have to talk about the weather, and ask about the kids and grandkids, and what you think the high school basketball team's chances are this year. Fifteen minutes later you're waving goodbye as they pull away; but now you're cooled down and back to square one. Off you go again, but three to four cars later and you're back in conversation.

I'm thinking of getting myself a t-shirt that says “Hey, I'm Walkin' Here!” on the front and maybe “Just exercising.” on the back.

Of course if I did, and someone were to chase me down, beat me unconscious and rob me, bystanders would gather around my silent form and say things to each other like “Hey, I saw him running. I just thought he was getting better at it.”

The sad part is this: If I was young and studly and tanned I could take my shirt off, slap on a pair of hot pink, silk, jogging shorts and walk anywhere in town and people would drive on past me, waving and watching admiringly as I stepped out, exercising my healthy self.

I could walk anywhere in town I wanted to, if only I didn't need the exercise.

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