Sunday, July 21, 2013
During the summer, I tend to bike the trail a lot more than I walk it, but the last few days, I've had the urge to play pedestrian. One thing I tend to forget when riding is how much more steeped in your surroundings you end up when on foot. You notice more small details along the way: a mole burrowing by the trailside, a jay scolding you from a nearby tree as you pass, snakes coiled in the sun. And you hear a lot more, whether you want to or not. There's no wind whistling in your ears as you cruise along, and encounters with other trail users are prolonged by your slow pace. You end up touched by all the lives around you, unintentionally catching fragments of conversations from other walkers, from joggers that puff by, caravans of cyclists: bits of gossip, parents keeping kids in line, smatterings of philosophical meanderings, scriptural reflections.
Sometimes it gets downright unpleasant. Today I set off on what was going to be a five mile walk, but just after the three mile turn-around point, I ended up behind a couple having a very loud, furious, foul-mouthed argument. I tried walking fast enough to pass them by, but it was taking so long (I think they kept speeding up in their anger) that in the end I gave in to embarrassment and turned back.
Yesterday's accidental eavesdropping was more entertaining, if not much less cringe-worthy. A couple (newly dating, judging from the clues) approached me from behind and then passed me. The conversation as they went by went something like this:
HE: (obviously excited and enthusiastic about this topic they've hit upon) "Yeah, that's great! Keep that up, and the next thing you know, you'll be down fifty pounds, and your heart rate when exercising will be what your resting heart rate is now!"
SHE: (after a barely perceptible pause) "Fifty pounds."
HE: (just the eensiest bit defensive/panicky) "Well...you know what I mean."
SHE: (rather coolly)"No. I don't."
(At this point they went by me--she was bit thinner than I am, i.e. within a healthy BMI range, though could stand to lose a *few* pounds and tone up a bit. If she lost more than fifteen or twenty pounds, she'd look sick. He, predictably perhaps, was on the pudgy side.)
HE: (starting to stammer a little) "Well, you know...there are like...long distance runners and stuff who have no...um...extra...um...material." Hastily added: "Not that I like that or anything, I'm just saying that--"
HE: "OK, well, maybe not so much then. But--"
At that point they drifted out of earshot. Part of me rather wished I could lob some sort of audio surveillance device at them so I could hear if he actually managed to back pedal his way (so to speak) out of the situation. On the other hand, it's quite likely it didn't get any prettier, so maybe it's just as well I didn't get to hear the end.
I mean...dude! I know you meant well but...wow.
On the bright side, I with my clumsy conversational skillz suddenly feel most suave by comparison...so there's that.