Walk-Rage

I read while I walk. I think I’ve mentioned this before. It’s one of my quirks. I know that a lot of people find it extremely strange. I suppose I can understand that, but honestly, I don’t see how different it is from walking while listening to music. Lots of people, and I among them, walk from place to place with earphone wires dangling around their face, leading from their ears to a pocket or a bag. This is considered quite normal for this day and age. Now that we have the ability to have music in our pockets wherever we go, we do so.

Well, books have been around a lot longer than iPods. They’re also a form of entertainment, in addition to being a source of knowledge for the reader and a method of organizing it for the writer. So why is it so strange that I read while I walk?

I’m not unreasonable. I know why people look askance at me when I do so. They think I can’t see where I’m going; they think I’m going to knock into someone; they think I can’t possibly take in anything I read when I do it in that fashion. I can address each one of these concerns. First, I have terrific peripheral vision. Maybe it’s developed because of my little habit or maybe I had it before, but I can promise you that I very rarely stumble while reading, nor do I hit lampposts or trees. Second, because I have good peripheral vision, I also notice people, and rarely knock into anyone. I can honestly say that the times I’ve bumped into people while I was reading is exactly the same as when I was simply distracted, walking too fast or had misjudged the distance between me and someone else. It’ happens to everyone, right? Third, and finally, I read slower while I walk. I do sometimes need to read a line over. But why is it anyone else’s concern how much I take in while I’m reading?

Now, my detractors may think other things as well, but I’m not sure what. Do they think it’s simply too nerdy to read all the time? Do they think it’s just so very strange to see a young woman with black rings in her lips and a book in hand? I’m not sure. Frankly, I don’t care.

What I do care about, and I’ve discussed this here before as well, is the comments I need to receive. Even saying it’s the strangest, oddest, most bizarre thing in the world to be doing – why does that give people the right to comment on it to my face? They can talk behind my back about the strange girl all they want. But what gives them the right to ask me, mockingly of course, “What chapter are you on?” or demand, mockingly of course, “How about you read some of it aloud?”

Of course, there’s the whole issue of my pierced lips – those draw many inappropriate, and to my mind, unneeded comments as well, but that’s for a whole other post, some other day. The reason I chose to write, yet again, about my habit of reading while I walk is because I received the most offensive comment I’ve ever gotten today, one that made me so furious that it put tears of rage and hurt in my eyes and made me actually yell back a retort.

I was walking to the mall, bag slung over my back with my tiny laptop in it, on my way to Aroma, one of the major coffee-shop chains in Israel. I’ve recently discovered their delicious ice-espressos, to which I add some milk and turn into delicious ice-coffees that aren’t sweet or too milky. The apartment was getting oppressive, and I didn’t manage to write there, so Sir B. F. came up with the idea that I may want to come here – and indeed, here I am, writing a too-long blog post as part of my write-two-hours-a-day goal.

As I was walking, I had my book out. Funny enough, it was actually “The Mandolin Case” – a book by fellow blogger Dr. Tom Bibey. I was in the middle of a particularly exciting part, and I was waiting to see just what that “sumbitch” Olden was going to try now and how he was going to get out of his newest predicament, when I noticed, as I always do, someone walking from the opposite direction. I moved aside automatically and kept reading. As he passed, this fat, balding man who was wearing shorts and sunglasses said the following:

“Someone should give you a slap ’round the face and maybe then you’ll learn not to read when you walk.”

I literally stopped with shock, and I felt my stomach clench so hard it felt like a rock had taken up lodging in my abdomen. Someone should hit me so I won’t read while I walk?! If you can believe it, my throat is closing up right now and I feel tears prickling my eyes again, which is embarrassing as I’m in a public place with families, toddlers and businesspeople all around. How dare he?! How can someone say that? I was so furious that I yelled back, my voice breaking.

“Are you saying you want to slap me? Have you no shame?” This is a rough translation from the Hebrew – if any of you know the term chutzpa, then what I said was “Are you saying you want to hit me? What chutzpa!”

He yelled back something about it not being him who wanted to hit me, just that someone should, but I’d already turned away by then and had started walking, sticking my nose back in my book but seeing red rather than black on white.

My LA Haven

This is the way it’s always been:

Once I enter the large wood-framed glass doors, whether they’re in the mall or next to Ralph’s, my world shifts subtly, becoming a place of beauty and opportunity and most of all, calm. My cares drift away, and I let myself go, knowing I’m in a safe place. I wander the carpeted walkways, the halls, sometimes going up and down escalators. I gaze appreciatively at this corner or that, checking also if any of the chairs in the nooks are taken and if I might have a chance of collapsing into one later.

As a child, my steps, guided by a parent’s or relative’s hand, led me to the section with the big “JR.s” sign above it. All the shelves were at reachable child level, there were dolls and games in a corner and there was the same hand that had led me before, pointing out titles and pictures, helping me pick and choose.

Later, as I grew older, I would venture into that section alone, looking for the taller shelves. I would find my heart’s desires there – whether they were embodied by girls who rode horses and lived in the country or by boys and their dogs or detectives or super heroes. When my hands were too full to carry any more, I would plop myself down on the floor and lean against the shelves or recline in one of the comfy chairs by the windows and wait until my mother and brother were ready to go and pay.

Today, I feel the echoes of these times with me whenever I stride confidently through the vast halls and floors of Barnes&Noble. I focus my energies on the Fantasy-and-Sci-Fi section and the Young-Adult section – for it often holds fantasy novels as well and some adorable easy reading material besides. Whenever I am in the US, most specifically my beloved LA, I beg to be left alone in the shop for a couple hours so I can make my purchases and buy myself a strong coffee and read, cracking the spines of the new books with joy.

Body and Mind

Sweat dripping down my brow and stinging my eyes, muscles cramping and aching, feet pumping along despite the myriad blisters – there is no feeling so satisfying: being in control of your body, utterly and totally, knowing it will obey you despite it’s pains, despite it’s aches.

Then again, there is also such wonder in letting go of such control. Giving yourself up to complete languor, as when falling asleep after a long and hard day. Knowing your body has reached its limit and surrendering yourself completely to a motionless rest. Letting your muscles and limbs twitch as they will, random currents running from your brain to every joint and fiber of your body.

It’s incredible to think what strange vessels our bodies are, capable of every sort of odd movement and feeling, all coming through these invisible, unconscious decisions and chemical reactions that we cannot ever feel.