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.

A Little Ramble

This morning, I woke up, and I was sure it was going to be a horrible day. Now, about eight-and-a-half hours later, the day has turned out to be surprisingly lovely. I’m always a bit nervous when this happens; I keep expecting some sort of emotional lighting-bolt to hit me out of nowhere and crumble my good mood into ashes. You may say I’m being needlessly pessimistic. But I swear, I’m my own worst enemy, and I can do this to myself for not much reason at all. I guess that’s part of what brought my whole illness about.

No dwelling! I intend this to be a happy post. So I shan’t dwell, no sirree.

My mom and I baked brownies today. It’s amazing how little work it takes to make the batter. They taste so much better than a ready-made mix, and are just as quick to make. They’re currently sitting, ever-so-innocently, in their glass pan on the kitchen counter, calling out to be devoured.

I also managed to catch up on blog-reading lately, something that makes me happy because I love having all these different viewpoints, opinions and lives to learn from and peek into, if only through some words on a screen. It’s amazing, really, what a few words can make you think and feel, isn’t it?

Another good thing that happened today is that my studying has been going well. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m taking a course at the Open University here. It’s  history course focusing on Greece during the Classic period, but with some background into earlier times as well. So far, the material is fascinating, although it’s presented in a rather drab fashion – we get these course-books that summarize everything and are very dry and not appealing to read. Still, if I look past that, I find that what I actually find in the pages of the boring looking brown books is extremely interesting. Hopefully, I’ll even get credit for this class when I go back to Sarah Lawrence.

Finally, I took a walk today. I’m being allowed to walk again, and I love it. I just love walking fast, feeling my muscles work and my heartbeat rise.

So far, a good day.

Phases

As you may know, if you frequent this page, I am a walker. I walk daily, and a day without a long, brisk walk is a day that is plain wrong. Tonight, as I was taking a walk, I realized that my walks have phases, and they are the same phases each and every time.

The Beginning: When I set out, I am normally optimistic about the coming walk – thinking to myself how good it is to be out, breathing the fresh, hopefully cool, air. This feeling fades though, rather quickly, and this phase doesn’t normally last more than three to four minutes.

The Misery: This is the phase that comes over me as the muscles in my legs begin to ache, as I begin getting warm and uncomfortable, as I begin to think longingly of getting home already. My music begins to annoy me, I feel everyone is staring at me, my muscles burn and my hands freeze or seize up. I begin a fierce, silent battle in my mind – a small part of me trying to convince the rest of me to cut the walk short, to take a shortcut, to give up, that it’s not a big deal. I hope never to succumb to this feeling. Shortly after the halfway point of my walk though, this phase blissfully fades away.

The Glass Half Full: About three minutes after my halfway point, I begin feeling optimistic once more. I think to myself – I’ve finished half already! Even though the weariness in my muscles is still prevailing over my physical well being, my mood begins to lighten and I feel the very beginnings of what will come in the next phase…

The Reason I Walk Every Day: This is my favorite part. On a good day, it lasts almost half my walk. This is the part where my energy and stamina suddenly rise, adrenaline pumping through me, my muscles miraculously become free of pain or discomfort, only full now of the urge to move on and on and on. I feel like I could walk forever, and keep enjoying it. I suddenly feel like bouncing, running, jumping. Every breath of wind feels like a blessing, as if it knows I need the cool air on my face. I feel elated, so proud that I didn’t cave into my discomfort, so in control of my body and energy.

The Ending: This phase is a more tired state of the previous one. It happens only as I walk into the driveway of my building, shaking a little still with the force of the energy flowing through me, out of me. I feel exhausted,  but pleased, satisfied, proud and content all at once.