Thursday, May 03, 2007

Stumping Columbo

One of the things I love to do is take long walks, and I live in the ideal location for it. My apartment is on the side of Mount Roberts, at the beginning of one of the loveliest walks you could ever find. Basin Road runs uphill from my place for about a block and a half and then the houses stop, the Road curves into the Silverbow Basin, crosses a small bridge, and continues on without paving. The road now meanders on, following the side of the mountain. To the left, the mountain continues down, where it meets Gold Creek, and Mount Juneau climbs on the other side. Before I injured myself (and again in the future, so help me, again in the future) I had a choice of how to walk to work. I could take six minutes and go downhill from my front door, or I could take an hour and go uphill, into the Basin, over the spillway, on to the boardwalk of the flume on the Mount Juneau side, to Evergreen Street, past the cemetary, past the Governor's House, and then around and back up to my office. Particularly when there was no ice through the Basin, that's the way I went. I would get into the office feeling very alive and invigorated and all over good. I carried a notebook with me because as I walked I wrote poems for Maya. In the six minutes I went downhill, I could get a four line ditty; in the hour I might generate three or four complete poems about my cats or the landscape.

Lots of people walk in the Basin, alone, together, with or without dogs. At almost any time of day, you will intersperse times of solitude with moments of sociability. People greet each other, give reports of any trouble further along, such as a new rock slide blocking the board walk or a washout of part of the path, and in general behave in a friendly way. If they trust you, they will tell you about the herons who are nesting just off the path.

I began to encounter this young jogger.(This is a picture of a generic jogger, not the one I saw.) I would see him first thing in the morning. I would see him after work. I would see him any time of day on the weekend. He was about 24 or so, tall, naturally thin, effortlessly athletic, and as annoying as he could be. Every time we met, he would say, "Good girl." And I would seethe. Not getting caught up in the insult involved in calling a woman old enough to be your mother a girl, there was the patronizing assumption that I was interested in his judgment of my activities. I realize that I don't know what exactly he meant, but what it felt like to me was that he approved of me getting out there and exercising and doing something about my weight. That, as a man, he felt he had a right to judge me, a woman. That, somehow, it was my job to look a certain way, which would please him, or get out there and work on it. It was as angering as when men (who you may or may not know) tell you to smile*! I found myself getting tense when I started my walks, anticipating this person who was now looming in my mind as a real burden. Some days it was all I could do to make myself take the walks that I had always loved.

I began having these fantasies of violence. I would picture encountering him on the boardwalk and when he made his stupid remark, pushing him down the mountain. I could hear the satisfying crunch of his bones as he fell and see the bloody swath his body would cut through the trees. It was a lovely fantasy.

The best part was that no one knew that the two of us had ever had any contact. I could kill him with impunity and never be suspected at all. Why, even Columbo wouldn't be able to solve this one.

But, you know, fantasies like this may relieve anger for a while and they may satisfy the need to protect yourself for a month or two, but they aren't good for the soul. So, one day when we met, I stopped him and told him how his remark felt and about the fantasies I had. He was more than startled. After that, when we met we smiled at each other and went on our way. After that, I no longer started a walk wondering just where I would be this time when he upset me.

* I'm a person, and I'll scowl if I want to!


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I don't know if I'd take offense by his words, or not. I'll have to think on that. I do know that if I didn't feel comfortable around him for whatever reason, I'd avoid him.

I live in a suburb that is in the process of being created and there are months that I don't go down certain streets where building is going on just so I avoid the men working there. It may not be fair, but it's life. I'm all about safety.

Maya's Granny said...

Ally Bean, The problem wasn't safety -- I never felt unsafe around him, just annoyed and pissed off and patronized and ugh! I would be so tense every time I took a walk.

And, when you don't know when a person is going to be where, there is no avoiding him. I would have had to give up walks, since we're talking about a path network and he, like me, walks different parts of it, not predictably on one path. And, since I talked to him, it's ok.

Gina said...

He sounded very patronizing! That he would even think of calling you "girl" annoys ME and it didn't happen to me!

Good for you for telling him!

Betty said...

I'm all for letting people know about it, when they annoy me for any reason. I'm just not as nice about it as you are.

Author Mom with Dogs said...

I'm with you. I would have been compelled to say something as well. Not sure I would have shared my fantasies though... :) I've no doubt you gave him much food for thought!

Chancy said...

I love it. You were brave to get this off your chest and mind.