Sometimes I wish I were invisible … or had better social skills.
Running is meditation for fidgety types and I have enjoyed it for the best part of thirty years but still feel a wally when I meet anyone, especially if it’s someone I recognise. The worst scenario is seeing a neighbour in the distance, approaching along a straight lane. Does it look silly the way I am swinging my arms? Would it look sillier if I kept them still? At what point am I supposed to start smiling at them? Running for half a mile grinning like an idiot can’t be right, so should I grimace at the road right until the last minute then look up and shout “Hello” just as we cross paths? There is also the issue that I never feel “Hello” is enough and so end up talking about the weather or something – which leads on to the awkwardness of saying “Goodbye” and then suddenly sprinting off again. Worse still is when I start to catch up with someone who is ‘jogging’ as opposed to ‘running’. I feel a bit of a bitch for overtaking, like I’m showing off or trying to make them look slow but I have to go at my natural pace, which is variable but generally slower these days. My stock remark when overtaking other runners is, “Did you think you’d got an echo? Ha ha.”
The awkwardness must be something to do with self-consciousness about being seen in motion. At work, I don’t seem able to walk across the office without checking my watch, messing with my hair or straightening clothes as I go along.
This evening, whilst walking the dog, I had the running scenario in slow motion. There was an old gent approaching very slowly with the aid of two walking sticks. I was very conscious of the dog poo bags swinging from my left hand (I’ve never been the designer handbag type!) and I could see he was drawn to them. Although the bags are black, there is something about the contours and pendulous nature that makes the contents instantly recognisable. And this evening, I had been blessed with four offerings.
“Who’s taking who a walk?” he asked (which is a common variation on “Why don’t you put a saddle on his back?”)
“More like ‘Who’s taking poo a walk?’” I answered, with a little flourish of my trophies. He chuckled, bless him, but I cringed at myself afterwards.
I think it’s something to do with the village mentality; where people who know nothing about each other exchange pleasantries (or sometimes unpleasantries if you’re as socially inept as I am). When I lived in Leeds, some years ago now, people I didn’t know would have thought I was nuts if I shouted “Hello” at them whilst running past.