Denver - I may have injured him. I don't know for sure. I kept walking and he kept running, which only justified my action.
I am new to the exercise path in our neighborhood. I start at my back door, catch the path a few blocks away, and I walk vigorously. I turn around at a major intersection, for the return trip. It's uphill (both ways!). Oh, and I should point out that the path begins for me in a very wealthy neighborhood. Beautiful homes, tucked away behind Colorado's finest flora, invisible to the average driver. There are horses and lighted tennis courts and guest cottages. When I return to my neighborhood, I sometimes feel like I'm entering the servant's quarters.
It didn't take long to grasp the exercise etiquette. One should walk on one side or the other, so bikers can pass safely. If a biker is approaching from behind has a sense of order, he or she will announce their presence by yelling "Left side!", or "Right side!". I'll admit that this often startles me into stepping to the very side they are warning me about. But I am new to the exercise path, after all.
It's the greeting ritual the zealot ignored. That's what got him into trouble.
The greeting ritual is anthropological in nature, old as time itself. It's combination of scouting for danger, territorial rights, and the often-dangerous evaluation based on purely visual stimuli. All sciences aside, there is a greeting designed for each and every person. I didn't make the rules, I just try to follow them:
People with dog(s) – Smile at dogs first to show your love of animals and dislike of animal bites.
Coifed Junior Leaguer who knows you don't live in that neighborhood – big, confident smile daring her to know for sure.
Happy, slow walking older people – Warm "Good morning", and smile.
Sour, slow walking older people – Warm "Good morning", and smile.
The reluctant walker, presumably following doctors orders – empathetic and understanding smile and nod.
Joggers (we're getting close to the zealot here) – usually just a nod or smile. They are concentrating, and after all, they don't call this the Mile High City for nothing – oxygen is scarce. Don't tax them. But some acknowledgement is expected from both parties.
That's where he comes in. He's been jogging since 1970. No, no, I misspoke. He's been running since 1970. The very moment they created the first parcours de santé – there he was and always has been.
He has running shoes and running socks and running glasses and running shorts. His gait is perfect, even prissy. He's that runner that makes no noise. His body his sinewy. I've seen 10 year olds with bigger hips and ass than him. And he is serious.
So serious, that although he makes empty eye contact, he refuses to acknowledge me. I sense disdain in that vacuous stare. "Why am you walking instead of running?" say his dainty little ankle socks.
After a few, consecutive rebuffs, I start to get angry. I consider my new daily power walking as a great step (no pun) for me. I was so sedentary, I was beginning to take root and become a tree. Now, I huff and I puff and I concentrate too, but I remain polite.
Well, the other day we approached each other once again. It becomes clear, as the distance between us closes that he's not going to greet me. When he's about one foot (again no pun) away, I step boldly toward him and scream "HELLO!!!!!!!!".
He may have been injured. I don't know. Serious power walkers don't stop for zealots.
Run The Planet thanks Dierdre Hall for the permission to reprint her article "Terrorizing the Zealot". Text copyright © by Dierdre Hall. Illustration copyright © 2001 by Run The Planet.