Saturday, September 24, 2011

Walkery and Things

I woke up a bit earlier than usual this morning, around a quarter to five. On weekdays, I try to walk two to three miles early in the morning, but I put more demands on myself on weekends. On a typical Saturday, I would wait until around six o'clock to get going, but today I opted to get right into it. So, just before five, I set out for what I told myself would be a minimum of four miles.
It has been awhile since I went north on my morning walks, so I decided to inject a little change into my morning routine and headed north.

Despite the fact that I've been taking morning walks for quite some time, I'm never quite "up" for them. It might be different if they were leisurely strolls, but they're not. I push myself, though not too hard, to start with and keep up a pretty brisk pace, almost always 15 minutes per mile or better; that's four miles or more per hour. By the time I'm ten or fifteen minutes into the walk, though, I fee much better about it and am glad I pushed through the doubt about whether I really wanted to go out.

Most mornings I stay on low-traffic residential streets or on one of the nearby hike-bike trails, but today I spent the majority of my time on fairly busy main arteries, though at the early hour of my walks there's not a great deal of traffic. The one big difference, though, is that the critters I often seen on less-traveled streets are largely missing when I hit the main roads. No bunnies, no raccoons, no possums scampering across the street. Just the occasional car or caravan of cars, plus a walker or runner every now an again.

This morning, I saw a runner I've seen on many previous walks. As usual, this young, thin, closely-shaven-headed guy who runs carrying a light pack on his back did not acknowledge me when we passed going in opposite directions. I always acknowledge other walkers and runners and bicyclists but often am disappointed that they do not return the greeting. I wonder if they are so deeply into a meditative routine that they either choose not to interact with others or are oblivious to others around them.

At any rate, this guy followed his pattern of staring straight ahead and not acknowledging my wave and "good morning!" as we passed. A short while later, though, as I was walking against traffic, closely hugging to the curb, I heard a loud voice right behind me. I was not expecting it and was startled by it. I had my headphones on and was listening to "World Cafe," so I was admittedly a bit distracted, but I keep the volume low so I can hear vehicles and people nearby. I did not quite understand what he said, but later decided he must have said "on your right" as he was about to pass me. When I heard that loud sound, though, I twisted around quickly and saw him (the same closely-shaven-headed guy who had been running the other direction earlier) and said something like "Oh! You startled me!" He said, at about the same time and just as he passed by, "I'm sorry I scared you." It woke me out of my distracted state and probably increased my heart-rate by a good fifty percent.

As I continued on my way, I began thinking about all the people I see while out on my walks. Rarely do they seem very friendly as we pass by one another. I try to smile and wave and say "good morning" whenever I pass, but rarely do I get a reciprocal attitude. While the guy with the backpack may be in his Zen state, the guy strolling along at a leisurely pace, looking at the sky and the trees and the birds, probably isn't. Nor is the woman walking her dogs. Or the chatty women walking together. Most of them, if they acknowledge me at all, seem nervous and suspicious.

I wonder why. I wonder how they would react if I asked them to stop and talk to me. "I'm writing an article on interacting on the exercise trail and wonder if you'd have a word with me?" Would I be rejected?

I may find out. I may not.


YourFireAnt said...

NO one should be forced to talk first thing in the morning. You are a pest. Quit it!


bev said...

My experience has been that people's willingness to interact has a lot to do with where you are. In Ottawa, which is the closest city to where We had our farm, people were very cold and would treat you like they thought you were a panhandler or something if you said anything to them.

Nova Scotia tends to be quite different. People are pretty talkative. If you say something to just about anyone, they will reply. we oticed this immediately the first time we vacationed here about 15 years ago. It has not changed. The only people who might snub you are those from away.

Bisbee has also proven to be a good town as far as friendly people who don't glare at you if you say something. Some people will actually stop and start talking to you if you as any kind of question. I attribute some of that to it being such a tourist town, but I'd also say the people are just friendly.

When I compare these three places, the differences are that the city is more business and government oriented. People are very money and status conscious. They seem to either be in a hurry, or act like they are too busy to give someone the time of day. Not so in either of the lother locations. In Nova Scotia, it is not at all unusual to go to the cash with your groceries and try to let someome with a few things in ahead of you and they'll say, "No, it's okay. I'm not in a hurry. I have all day.". That has happened so many times I can't count. In Ottawa, people would be rushing for the cash trying to squeeze in before you.

Different places. Different people.

Anonymous said...

I force no one to talk. Well, almost no one. Except you, of course, YFA. Bev, I have had the same sorts of experiences. I used to think it was a city versus rural environment, but I'm not so sure anymore. I think it's more regional than urban/rural in nature, which fits with what you're saying about Ottawa versus Nova Scotia and Bisbee. I'd love to explore the issue and write about it. Maybe I'm a late-blooming (blooming probably isn't the right word...ripening might be better!) social anthropologist!