When I was little I invented this awesome game called “sweet or sour.” We would usually play it when we were sitting in the back of our Volvo station-wagon in the seats that flip down and face backwards so you’re always staring at the people in the car behind you. The idea is that every time there’s a new car behind you, you wave at them. If they wave back they’re sweet. If they don’t wave then they’re sour. Often times they were somewhere in between. Also I lied when I said I invented it – I’m pretty sure every person in the entire world has played that game, but I enjoyed explaining it like it was something I created. If only.
When we went running on trails around Portland during high school cross-country, we would pretty much play this game, although it wasn’t like an actual game where we kept score or anything, just something we did. I specifically remember my friend Murphy doing this. He would say hi to every single person we encountered on the trail (or just say “WOOOOOOOOOOO RUNNING!!” if the other person was also a runner), and then based on their response say that the person either “is nice” or “sucks.”
Now I play that game in my head sometimes. Especially on really long runs, where there’s not a lot else to do. It doesn’t make things that much more exciting though, because when you run in the middle of the day on a Wednesday and go out to mile 9 or so on Leif Erickson, there’s a good chance you won’t even encounter anyone. However, when you do see people, there’s a really good chance that they’re going to suck, because everyone wears headphones while they run now, and somehow the fact that they can’t hear you makes it okay to not say hi to you when you run by them. At least I’m assuming that the headphones/ipod are somehow related to them not saying hi to me. Maybe they just hate me. I don’t think this is true though, because usually I do get a knowing smile. This is kind of disappointing though, because in high school when people usually didn’t wear headphones when they ran because if they did it was usually attached to a huge discman that skipped a lot, or they had to hold the ipod in their hand because Nike and whoever hadn’t invented five million different pockets to put it in, they almost always said hi.
The lack of verbal acknowledgment is always extremely disappointing when I see someone when we’re both super far out on the trail, and I haven’t seen anyone for miles. First of all, they should say hi to me no matter what. Just because you can’t hear me not saying hi doesn’t mean I can’t hear you not saying hi. Secondly, if you see someone out near the end of the trail, you’re both obviously doing a run upwards of 20 miles (although they could potentially be coming from the other direction, making they’re run much shorter, but I can usually tell the difference – or at least I think I can), and I really feel like we should stop and chat about how badass we both are for going on such a long run. Nobody ever does this though. Today after mile 6 I got one “hi,” one knowing smile, one mutual chuckle over how much mud we had to muck through, and two people who almost completely ignored me.
This isn’t just a Leif thing either; the ratio of people who suck to people who are nice on the Wildwood trail has also skyrocketed since my high school days.
Maybe I should run with friends more often so I’m not so dependent on the few seconds of human interaction I get with other runners as we cross paths on the trail.
Here’s a picture of me and Murphy in high school, so you don’t think I’m making him up.