Saturday was my day to go walk the beach in Salisbury, MA and look for dead birds for the SEANET program. In summer, I gird my loins for a bad time on these walks, as the beach is buried under lolling, blubbery human forms and their mountains of plastic garbage. In winter, on the other hand, it’s usually mostly deserted, left to the lolling, blubbery harbor seals (a decidedly better aesthetic) and a few hardy dog walkers. The plastic garbage, of course, is always present.
Upon arriving on Saturday, however, I saw orange traffic cones and mile marking placards along the road in to the beach. “Oh god,” I groaned, “A freaking St. Patrick’s Day road race.” (My five year old was with me, and was the sole reason I refrained from saltier language.)
I am a runner, and these racers should, by rights, be my tribe. But as I drove along at a crawl, my silent Prius sneaking up behind oblivious girls tapping at their iPhones, I became more and more enraged. “Goddamnit! Get OUT of the ROAD, you idiot!” I screeched. Men in green tutus and women dressed as leprechauns drifted into the road, blocking my passage to the parking lot. I glared at volunteers arranging cups of water on tables, trying to hate them into oblivion. I was decidedly not a member of the running tribe. I was a driver, and I was being obstructed.
Once I finally parked, Malcolm and I stood for a while watching the leprechauns and green ballerinas warming up, and listening to the race director bellow instructions. All my driver’s rage melted away. We watched the start of the race, the runners high-fiving the director as he yelled, “Way to be healthy! Way to get out of bed and do the right thing for your body!” (nevermind that the race ended with a pub crawl) and I was touched. It was a weird and beautiful sight–a few dozen green clad weirdos running to justify a late morning beer or two.
I am as prone as anyone to the egocentric “don’t they understand that I am doing something important?!” sensation. It’s worst in the cocoon of a car. Once out of that, and on my way to a leisurely walk on a deserted beach, my fellow-feeling and goodwill began to creep back in. Only when back on foot did I recognize my tribe again, and understood that they, too, were doing something important. It’s maybe just the tutus that obscured it.