Why taking a walk around here can be fraught with complexity and a unique brand of anxiety

In the cool season I do landscaping and house projects, but in the warm season my custom is to walk during the early mornings. So it was pleasant to get out today for the first time this spring, and I look forward to rolling up some miles in weeks to come.

10415403_sFunny thing about the walking–this is the start of my fourth year in the neighborhood–is how much variation I find among the other walkers from year to year. The first season, there was Sally, a senior hillbilly lady with a muzzled short-haired midsized dog. From a hundred paces, she would bellow out, “G-o-o-d m-o-r-n-i-n-g!” And I mean the range cattle in Chuckwalla Valley heard her. I would stop and chat, but the dog was too high-strung to be touched.

After weeks of Sally’s greetings and folderol, I started to cross the street on first glimpse of them. The deciding moment had come when, at the wheel of her red Cadillac, she tailgated me on the road to Palm Springs. She couldn’t have known it was me in my VW until that moment we arrived together at a red light; she was to the left now and abruptly slowed before pulling even. When the signal changed, she took a running start and zoomed away. Unmuzzled Cadillac V-8 power, you know. If Fido was in the car, he got quite a ride.

Last I heard, Sally’s charge pulled free on Clubhouse Road and attacked another woman’s lesser fluffball of a dog, and both women were rolling on the pavement trying to separate the pooches and the other woman sustained an injury. Was it a fractured ankle? Sally has disappeared, but I keep watching in my mirror for her Eldorado.

Also that first season I often encountered a certain man and woman together. He was a scrawny dude in his early 60s, always wearing a sleeveless jersey and runner’s shorts. The woman, who spoke with a British accent, was larger–especially with her huge hat under which she appeared to be bald. Maybe a cancer patient? She was deeply enjoying every moment life afforded. “Have a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l day!” she’d croon.

Soon she started to comment on my attire: what a great hat, colorful shirt! The street was paved with embarrassment. I figured out that at the beginning of my walk, turning instead to the right out of my driveway and going counterclockwise, I wouldn’t cross their path. I never did see them again that summer nor have I since.

But I hope the woman doesn’t have to wear the hat any more if she doesn’t want to.

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