By Mark W. Danielson
It was a typical Saturday morning in LA; overcast sky, temperature in the high fifties, people out walking and jogging. I had been flying night round trips to Oakland all week and now all that remained was to get a few hours of sleep before flying home on Frontier Airlines. Of course, when you keep a schedule like mine, sleep doesn’t happen easily, and while I got to bed by 4:30 AM, I was awake by 8. Fortunately for me, my hotel was celebrating “FedEx month”, so I was given a coupon for a free breakfast. One omelet and a few fruit slices later, I was out for a walk, heading to the beach.
There is a wonderful mulched trail that runs from the hotel to Manhattan Beach; its lush landscaping concealing it from the paved roads on either side. The neighborhoods are quiet, and traffic signals are nearly nonexistent. I was thoroughly enjoying my walk when a woman in her late thirties or early forties jogged ten feet in front of me and then slowed to a crawl. My 3.5 mph pace had me move to her left, and while passing her, I said with a smile, “You’re not allowed to pass and then slow down.” But rather than smile back, the woman cast a glare and said, “If that’s the worst that can happen, then you’ve got a problem.” After angrily fumbling with her Ipod earphones, she added, “You should be worried about the economy!” Wow! Where did that come from? Instinctively, I replied, “I was kidding,” but she quickly fired back, “I don’t think so.” Then, resuming her slow jog, she mouthed over her shoulder, “You probably voted for Obama!” Unreal! It was bad enough that I got her fired up, but what did our president have to do with her morning jog/trot/walk?
Needless to say, my head spun for the rest of my walk, and continued for some time afterwards. I kept wondering what had I done that was so wrong? I then thought about her circumstances. Did she lose her job? Was she jogging because she couldn’t afford gas anymore? (That seemed unlikely since she wore an expensive jogging suit, but I’m giving her the benefit of doubt.) Whatever the reason, one thing was clear; you never know what kind of reaction you may get from a stranger.
When I told my wife and daughter what happened, they both said it was a mistake for me to talk to a strange woman. Well, while I admit this woman was strange, the fact is I still believe that most people are good, and that this woman’s attitude was an isolated case. I base this on my experience of walking that trail where there were as many strangers saying hi to me as I was saying hi to them. In other words, most people are receptive to a smile and a greeting. Imagine what this world be like if we all clammed up, never smiled, and avoided all eye contact. For sure, it would be a pretty sour place. So pardon me, lady, for I didn’t mean to offend you when you parked yourself in front of me. Next time I’ll be sure and dodge you without saying a word, but that won’t keep me from smiling at everyone else who is heading my way. No fooling.