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Veteran Walking Moves

Monday June 8, 2020

So, I’ve been walking regularly since sometime in 2013, back when the following conversation with my wife happened:

  • Me: “I am really starting to hate the feeling of just pushing SO hard out there on my bike. I always end up racing traffic or dodging cats or throwing up on the side of the road because you went out of town and I wasn’t sure what to eat, so I ate half of a Pepperidge Farm Coconut Layer Cake and drank a bottle of orange juice or something.”
  • Blog Matron ISFJ, Keeper of the Sensible Perspective: “Hmm…you know, what if you just went for a nice walk? They say you can burn a surprising amount of calories doing that, and it’s very gentle exercise. Even just a walk around the block feels good.”
  • Me: “…huh.”

It didn’t really sound that great as exercise, but the idea of anything gentle and exercise-like sounded like it might be worth entertaining at the very least.

So I took my first walk around the block and returned with a huge patch of sweat on the front of my shirt, and a new feeling, like I’d just visited an entirely different planet. Not bad!

At that time I was super out of shape, still close to 300 pounds. I still thought that counting calories was really dumb, and I also thought I knew everything about how to get and stay in shape, even though I had been obese for my entire adult life. And it was this darn walking, this simple, sensible thing that I kept doing over the following years, that finally got me down to extreme-weight-loss levels.

It still blows my mind how far you can walk, if you really want to. We’d go on vacation and stay at a friend’s house, and I discovered that I could get up at 6 a.m., start walking, and return at about 10 or 11 a.m. having explored parts of the next city over, which was super fun.

Except for that One Part: Being an NPC

The thing I don’t like about walking is that I’ve had to invent clever ways of setting boundaries with other people. People see you out there and a lot of them think you’re basically an NPC. So they’ll do weird stuff in their cars around you, or they’ll get really suspicious of you for no good reason, or they’ll shout random stuff, or stare at you really strangely for no apparent reason, and so on.

Some facts:

  • Being a man who walks by himself carries the “random women think you’re probably really creepy” stigma. That part sucks, but that part can also go floof itself. (I do try to accommodate people’s fears a bit, by crossing the road away from them when appropriate, or taking a different route than the one presently occupied by a lone jogger straight out of some crime drama)
  • My ninja personality knowledge has taught me that I am capable of triggering ESFPs from about half a mile out. Man, woman, child, doesn’t matter. They are so flipping concerned about my presence. Bearded quiet ninja guy is here again! One of them asked me once, “why are you taking photos of houses in our neighborhood?” Huh? Oh, you mean that house that’s for sale, the one with the sign in front? The one across the street from your house? The one I thought about purchasing, right up until I learned you’d be my neighbor? Geez.
  • The ESFP men tend to think you want to talk to everyone in the vicinity, including them, because why wouldn’t a person want to do this? It’s a beautiful day. Who wouldn’t want to be talking to everyone, on a day like this? (Italian gesture-shrug) Then if you don’t talk to them, they really start to size you up.
  • If you have gear, you need to make sure it’s colorful and sporty, or people will think you’re up to no good. If—god forbid—it’s Field Day and you want to hop on your ham radio real quick, make sure it’s a blue or yellow or green or orange ham radio. DO NOT USE the black one because people will wonder what’s going down in their ‘hood. No guarantees on the red ones.
  • Likewise, your clothing should have some sporty element. Us gray-loving INTJs are at a huge disadvantage here. You do not blend in as a walker when you’re wearing gray. You stand out, because if you’re not a super-colorful sporty walker person, or a muted-colors, strappy hiking person with wool socks, then what the hell are you doing? Do you mean to tell me you’re just out for a walk?
  • A lot of people are definitely not doing anything at home, and they’re staring at you as you walk by. So it’s best to change up one’s walking routes, otherwise they will find a way to become deathly concerned about your frequent passage.
  • People in cars think that you are a walking information booth. Man, I have done my best for people in at least three languages by now. But they’re always asking how they can get from here to some place across town! I can’t just point in a direction and tell you to drive that way! We have curves and intersections and one-way streets here. If you don’t have a phone with maps, I am not giving you turn-by-turn! It may be hard to understand, but this is super frustrating.
  • Sometimes these fancy-pants extroverted intuitives in cars will point out a literal mountain, and they’ll ask, “how do I get to up there?” Huh? “I just need to be in the mountains right now.” Uh. OK, most of what’s between here and there is private land, or just dangerous, curvy roads I don’t know about…here, let me give you directions to the freeway, which will eventually get you to a mountain pass, where it’s probably more public and safer for a hyper-idealistic weirdo like you.
  • Other people in cars are not so nice. They’re bored and they’ll roll down their window and shout or something. It’s strange, but they’re triggered somehow, so it happens. I’m good at ignoring it, mostly.

But then

OK and what this adds up to, once again: I’ve become this know-it-all INTJ walker guy. I’m out there and I think I’m pretty savvy! My intuition can tell me what things are about to happen, when I’m walking.

Which led to today’s embarrassing experience.

I was out walking this morning, and this big American sedan drives up slowly from behind. Lowered body, medium-tinted windows. I look over and the driver is gawking at me. Great. Why did I just make eye contact? This better not be some random harassment.

He’s driving up from behind, then he pulls over a bit and does a U-turn across the center of the street, coming in my direction! He’s pulling up about 30 feet in front of me, and I just know it: This guy wants to mess with me.

My intuition is RAGING at this point. I’m too tired to stop and change direction. I keep walking toward him. But I need to vent. Something is about to go down.

“Look at THIS asshole,” I grumble, out loud. The guy’s still in his car. He can’t hear me.

Just then, next to me, I notice a tree moving. Oh. Hello! Not a tree! It’s a human! She’s standing on her lawn, WAITING for this guy to come pick her up! Oh no!

I’m pretty sure it was his wife! Oh man.

Her mouth hung open, as she stared at me with the most confused look.

My look, in return, was something like total INTJ shock

You see? It’s hard being an NPC. Overall the pros far outweigh the cons. But a lot of the time I’m either trying to avoid what my intuition tells me is absolutely worth avoiding, or trying to engage my senses enough to maneuver through something like a pleasant but unexpected conversation.

Or you know, I’m out there calling somebody’s really sweet husband an a-hole. NEXT ARTICLE.

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