Monday, June 16, 2014

We Are A Primitive Species

by Bert Carson
I'm in the final days of my 35th year of running.  I embarked on my first run a half hour after sunset on July 2, 1979.  That means that July 3rd will be the first day of my 36th year of being a runner.  On September 9, 2014, I will become 72 years old.  Mathematically speaking, on that day, and for the remainder of my "running year," I will have been a runner for one half of my life.  That's a marvel considering that for the first half of my life I had no intention of ever running anywhere, much less running for the fun of it.

Though I keep running logs, they aren't cumulative.  Every year stands on its on, and I've never felt it important to make them one log, and I still don't.  That means I cannot tell you exactly how many miles I've run.  Since that number is of little consequence to me, I'm confident it's of no consequence to you.  On the other hand, just to add a bit of emphasis to the event that prompted this tale, I can safely report that in my years of running, I've logged more than 35,000 miles.

For a long-time runner, that isn't a phenomenal number.  However, in geographical terms, it is the circumference of the planet plus 10,000 miles.  Though I've done it in small increments that is still staggering to me.  Add to that the fact that at least 90% of those miles have been run at night, and you might be a bit surprised to know that in all those years and miles, I've had less than a dozen encounters with law enforcement personnel.  And, if you take away the number of times I've initiated the encounter to report something I'd witnessed, the dozen encounters I just mentioned is cut in half.

One of the remaining encounters occurred last Friday evening.  It's the one that prompted this post.  I left the house twenty minutes before sunset, unusual for me and at the time I wasn't sure why I was starting earlier than usual, beyond the fact that I had a feeling that it was something I should do.  My normal route takes me through the heart of downtown Huntsville where there are a number of clubs.  Beyond being a source of loud noise and heavier traffic, they are normally of little concern.  That general description didn't hold true last Friday.

Just after full dark, about a half mile from the center of downtown, I began to encounter heavier traffic, both auto and pedestrian.  Using my handheld strobe light to mark my location for approaching vehicles, I wound through the area, concentrating on the milling crowds in order to avoid a collision with one or more of the hordes of humans who seemed to be drawn to the loudest of the clubs.  Finally, after several blocks of strobe lit concentration, I was away from the marching crowd but not the less than attentive drivers, so I was forced to resort to the strobe a number of times to mark my presence for preoccupied drivers.

Finally, I worked my way back into a relatively quiet residential neighborhood.  Running north on Lincoln Avenue, I saw a police cruiser stop at a stop sign for what seemed to be a long time before finally making a right turn onto Lincoln.  It traveled only a block before making another right onto Randolph.  As I neared the intersection of Randolph and Lincoln, the cruiser reappeared, stopping at the stop sign at the intersection.  The officer lowered the window and I knew I was about to have one of my infrequent encounters with a police officer.

I stopped beside the cruiser, and the driver, one of Huntsville's few police women, smiled and said, "I want you to be very very careful tonight."

"I did notice that things seemed crazier than usual when I went through downtown," I said.

With deadly seriousness, she replied, "There's a reason for that.  This is Friday the thirteenth and there is a full moon."

Then she gave me a curt wave and began raising the window, as she said, "Remember, be very very careful tonight."

As she drove away, I skipped back into my running stride, and began thinking about what she had said.  Friday the thirteenth and a full moon.  I quickly turned it into a mantra to keep my stride cadence - Left right left - thirteenth full moon - left right left - thirteenth full moon...

I understand the effect that the full moon has on all the creatures who reside on this planet.  It's a physical phenomenon that has affected things on earth since the moment the planet and the moon first appeared in the universe.

Friday the thirteenth isn't a physical phenomenon.  It's a groundless myth that we humans have made up to scare ourselves.  In so doing, we have confirmed, yet again, that we are in fact a primitive species.  Think about that and be very very careful.