I knew exactly what I wanted: a brilliant, late-fall run on the lake. I may not be a Millennial but I nevertheless have a finely-honed sense of entitlement. I wanted that run. The time change is coming and in less than a week, I won’t be able to run home from work because it will be too dark and you know what happens to women who run alone in the dark, right? Ask Kitty Genovese.
It took less than four steps for me to determine this wasn’t going to be one of the runs that makes me feel like a bird in flight. This was going to be the run of a middle-aged woman who brought the wrong running bra and didn’t eat sufficient protein throughout the day.
At .7 miles, I made it to the lakefront path. There, I was greeted by an asshole headwind, cousin to the one Dorothy encountered back in Kansas.
So this run is complete suckage, I thought, digging deep for some acceptance. I reminded myself of the great spiritual principles, such as (1) no one owes me a sublime run just because I toil in an interior office all day long; (2) at least I have legs to run; (3) Mother Teresa never bitched about adverse conditions on the running path.
I wasn’t getting what I wanted.
Half a mile on the path, a freckle-faced teenager passed me on a skateboard. He looked like he’d just barely grown out of a chubby phase and it was taking all of his effort to remain stabilized on his skateboard. His outfit looked private schoolish: a navy, long-sleeved collar shirt and khaki pants. His forehead glistened with sweat from his considerable efforts.
I resisted the urge to suggest he wear a helmet instead of the maroon baseball hat. Really, I was just pissed he passed me. I don’t like to be passed, even if by kids less than half my age on wheels.
He bobbled off the board, and as I passed him, I saw a surprised look on his face. He didn’t seem to fully understand of the physics of skateboarding. I smiled at him and decided he looked like a younger version of my friend Robert’s son. I wanted him to master that skateboard. Now instead of a lecture on safety gear, I wanted to pull him aside and say, “I hope you always have that impish innocence about you. I hope your keep that goofy grin for the rest of your life. I hope you’re the fucking coolest kid in your class. If you’re not, then I hope you know your day is coming. Be a good guy and you’ll get to have plenty of sex.”
I knew he’d pass me again so I stayed to the right. I considered resuming my complaints about the state of my lungs and the gale-force winds, but before I could really amp up my bitching, he swooshed past me. This time, however, his hat fell off about three yards past me. He didn’t seem to realize at first.
Without breaking stride, I bent and grabbed the bill of his hat and ten strides later passed it to him like a baton. He gave me what I imagine is his signature big goofy grin. Oh gee, lady, thanks for grabbing my hat, huh huh huh.
The next two miles felt marginally better physically, and infinitely better mentally. Something about my connection with that kid and his hat changed everything inside me.
I didn’t get what I wanted.
I got what I needed.