I Nearly Run Into Some Strange Women

August 23, 2006

The other day, I was bicycling around the lakes near LSU. I was coming up behind a walker who was cruising down the center of the bike path. This isn't uncommon, and it's not a big deal. But I don't want to just fly up past with an inch or two to spare. I would either scare the shit out of her, or if she veers the wrong way, cause an accident with no serious injury, but one that features a lot of spilled blood.

The normal etiquette for this is a clear warning call. "ON YOUR LEFT!"

I'm used to the person sliding casually to the right as if he intended to move out of the center all along. Rarely does anyone glance back and acknowledge me.

But the woman this week leapt immediately, doing a quarter-turn as she hopped all the way off the path. She looked back at me with wide, terrified eyes. I expect that it's an expression common on an Israeli who had heard "INCOMING KATYUSHA!"

I wanted to show her that there was nothing to fear without breaking my stride, so I gave her an extra-friendly, "Thanks!" as I passed. At the same time, she said, "Sorrrry."

I don't know if she heard my "No Prob!" before I was out of there. Next time, she'll know not to be so scared.

The demographic that usually scares easily is the small dog. Please owners, keep the leash pretty tight when on the path during crowded times of the day and near the road. The dogs get spooked, try to dart, and the tightening leash spins them either right in front of the bike, or the other direction which is often right into the traffic. I've seen a couple of close calls that would give me nightmares if I wasn't such a sound sleeper.

This bike path episode isn't the only exercise-related encounter with an odd woman that I've had this week.

I went to the YMCA to play basketball at lunch on Tuesday. The Y has a really big gym, but there are always a lot of things going on. I commonly see a class where elderly people work out with small weights while seated in chairs that appear to have been lifted from an elementary school. There's a class where a hard core trainer makes the people do all kind of painful looking exercises in a short period of time. And there are the mentally challenged people who walk slowly around and around the perimeter of the gym.

Tuesday this week featured the mentally challenged gymnasium circumnavigators.

At one point, I was chasing down a loose basketball. The ball bounced in the way of one of the walkers, who had to stutter-step to keep from tripping on it. I gave her my charming, apologetic half-smile, which she might have misinterpreted as a flirtation.

"What's your name?" she asked.


"Ben!?" She asked this in a disgusted look and tone. The response would have been appropriate if I had ignored her question and replied, "I like to eat turds," but it was a wholly inappropriate response to a common first name.

"What's wrong with that?"

"Well, I know another guy named Ben, and he is EVIL."

"Hmmm. Well, maybe I'm extra nice. To balance it all out, you know."

She seemed to accept this explanation and continued walking.

As they made their turn around the end of the court and started back past on the other side, I heard her say to her companion, "...but he says that he just balances it out...."