Monday, April 26, 2010

Hi, my name is Al Dimond and I am a waver.

On my run Friday morning in Seattle-land I waved and said, "Good morning," to almost everyone I passed on the Sammamish River Trail. They mostly ignored me completely. Except the old people. Old people rock it. Jess and I are the oldest twentysomethings we know, and I frequently wish people got old faster. Anyway.

I grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago (Elmhurst, IL, to be specific). On the Prairie Path and Great Western Trail in that area, if you wave at people as you go by you have a decent chance to get a response. In Champaign-Urbana, where I went to college, there weren't so many opportunities -- on campus you're mostly dodging people and off campus you don't run into too many people on foot. When you do you typically give and get a wave. Cody is sort of like that, minus the campus part; when I pass someone on foot here there's almost always an acknowledgement.

Running on Chicago's Lakefront Trail is sort of like trying to run on the Quad at UIUC on a weekday in terms of how busy it is. Maybe it's more like a human-powered highway. I'd say its users act toward eachother basically like drivers on a very busy two-lane road. So it's not a great place to run. And Chicago's sidewalks, in many places, are packed with people trying to do very different things than you are. Nobody will wave to you in those places. But if you're on some of the minor trails, or in certain parks in the city, a few people will say, "Hi."

I would have expected, based on their purpose and density, that when running the trails at Rancho San Antonio in California, people would have returned my waves, like they do on the Prairie Path. But they almost never did. And I would have expected the same on the paths in suburban Seattle, but again, they almost never did. I don't think very many people consider Chicago to be an unusually friendly place (and many people consider Seattle to be one); maybe the Prairie Path is just an unusually friendly running trail.

3 comments:

Danielle said...

I have mostly run on busier trails here, so I can't tell you if the no-waving phenomenon is universal, but I suspect it is...

heatrose said...

i feel like chicago is a particularly friendly place!

but really i'm posting to say that i was biking yesterday in the southwest suburbishes of paris and had stopped to look at a map of the town, and this old woman told me that i should "mettre la gourde", which literally translates to "put the gourd", and so i was confused, and she explained (in french) that she meant i should drink water. which i then interpreted as something like "chug some water" or "swill some water". which i discussed with some french speakers upon my return, and they hadn't heard the expression before. so it might be dated. but it was awesome. and serves as cross-cultural evidence of old people being awesome, if you were ever looking for that.

also, if the lakefront trail was a human powered highway, and the power was channeled into doing something, what would it be?

Al Dimond said...

When I think of particularly friendly places (in the US), I first think of the South. It might be more polite than friendly, though. I'm sure that depends a lot on who you ask. And Seattle. Although Seattle might be more meek than friendly. People don't know how to jaywalk in Seattle (not like in Wyoming, where they don't know how but do it anyway, I mean they just stand there like doofuses waiting for the light to change).

Anyway. I sort of thought one of the major features of highways was that their energy was essentially wasted on heat, noise, and vibration. And also on talking about what a great and essential part of the American experience it is to drive cars on highways.

I just read a book written some decades ago. 1/3 was about the lower Mississippi River and all the crazy stuff they do to keep it from changing course and how high it's dammed. And of course the Chicago River was dredged out and had its direction changed back when Chicago as we know it was really physically imposing itself upon the land. Except for the (somewhat) recent discovery that there are undercurrents going back in the original direction. So I'm going to say the Lakefront Trail bikers' and runners' energy would be used to turn back those undercurrents and ensure Chicago's waste is sent to St. Louis and the lower Mississippi, as is (apparently) right and proper.

The middle third of the book was about Icelandic volcanoes, and the last third was about idiotic LA exurbanites building in severe landslide areas. It made me hate Los Angeles even more than I hated it before I read the book. I picked it out off a shelf at the Cody Library because I saw the title (The Control of Nature), and was curious about its politics (it turned out not to have any, and the writing made me want to stab my eyes out).