I sometimes fear I am transitioning to the 'grumpy old man' phase of life. A time when the line separating all that was blurs with all that will be. It's a longing for all things lost and a fear for what awaits. It's a realization that time passes, that rust never sleeps*. We spiral forward with nothing to ground us other than fleeting memories of once upon a time. It's about no longer understanding the ways of the world.
Take the other day for instance.
I was 20 miles into a 27 mile run. It was a pleasant run and I was feeling strong coming off a menacing MCL injury. The sun was a-shining and the birds a-tweeting. All was well in the world and I was mindful in that moment
I am running on the street and she's running on the trail 20 paces away. She is in her mid-twenties and I'm just south of 60. Our strength and pace are evenly matched. We are aware of each other's presence, but we run silently lost in our own thoughts, side-by-side 20 paces away, young and not-so-young, blissfully minding our own business. Running.
I barely notice the voice at first. It is pleasant and cheery, and full of laughter. I look over to the young woman, 20 paces off to the side, and realize she's in an animated conversation on her hands-free phone.
She is talking on the phone to her boyfriend. I know it's her boyfriend because the talk is sweet and intimate (and becoming more intimate by the moment). I don't think she realizes how loud she speaks. She's now yelling into the phone.
I try to pick up my pace to move out of range, but after 21 miles my reserves are low. I consider slowing my pace and letting her move ahead but, call it stubbornness, that just doesn't seem like an option. I keep my pace steady hoping she will either A) hang up or B) veer off course.
Neither happened. Like white on rice, she remains a consistent 20 paces off my right shoulder.
I feel my bliss melt like wax on a candle.
I can't speed up. I won't slow down. I'm lost in this inane conversation that is way too intimate and way too sweet for public discourse. I have now been an unwilling participant in this conversation for 6 miles. Sixty minutes of dull pain permeates my brain, time I will never, ever regain.
I consider asking her to slow down just for a few minutes to allow me time to put some distance between us. It seems like a reasonable request? After all, she's probably unaware that I'm hearing this embarrassingly intimate conversation. Surely she will apologize like a good Canadian and slow her pace for a few minutes.
I slowed my pace, and pulled up alongside with a friendly smile.
"Excuse me, you're probably not aware that I can hear your entire conversation. If you slowed down for a couple of minutes I can get ahead and you can continue your conversation."
"I like this pace, why should I slow down?" she demanded.
"It's just a suggestion, thanks anyway" I said as I picked up my pace.
She then started yelling at me and defending her right, her entitlement, to speak on the phone.
I replied a second time "It's just a suggestion. It's not a problem" and ran ahead.
Her conversation continued for several more minutes and then stopped abruptly. I heard her trot up along my left shoulder several paces behind. She followed me for a minute or two in silence and then clipped my right side as she buzzed past, never to be heard, mercifully, again.
Maybe she does have a right to take away another's peace and enjoyment. Or maybe it just the way I was raised; to be considerate of others, to be polite, to be respectful, to care, to empathize.
Then again, maybe I'm just becoming a grumpy old man.
Either way, it's a good day to be alive.
* Neil Young