Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Signs of the End Times, Part I

As I've noted before, I'm a runner. Not because I really enjoy running, but because it is something I feel I need to do. In the first link above, I talked about where I run:
Almost always, about 95% of the time, I run the exact same route through a neighborhood park. It's a big park with a nice walking/jogging path looping through it, past playing fields and canals, partly shaded and partly in the open. It's about .8 miles long, so five circuits gives one a nice four mile run. The path itself is paved and--this being South Florida--completely flat.
In that piece, I also talked about what jerks some people could be, people who pointedly refuse to share the path on which I run. I surmised this was due to a sense of entitlement and an unwillingness to "give an inch" for one reason or another (mostly due to an inflated opinion of one's self-worth, I believe). I wrote that piece in October of last year and since then, I've experienced similar incidents--though not many--with other people. But there are jerks everywhere, always have been and always will be, right?

On my run today (seven and a half miles, thank you very much!), I saw another kind of behavior that was, I think, even worse and even somewhat depressing. As I said, I run through a park. And in this rather large park, there is a playground, a butterfly garden, a couple of gazebos, baseball fields, volleyball courts, barbecue facilities, and tennis courts. It's a great park.

On the path I run, there is also a "fitness trail," a series of exercise machines at intervals along part of the path for people to use to stay healthy and fit. And many people do use this equipment (something not always true in may parks). Some use it almost daily; I often see the same people doing so when I run, and I run almost daily. The equipment is quite varied. There's stuff for doing stepping exercises, stuff for arm exercises, along with bars for pull-ups, sit-ups, and push-ups. And there are platforms--like the sit-up one--to lie on to do crunches and the like as well.

The people who use this stuff regularly, I have noticed, treat it well (for the most part). And they are courteous in their usage, with a great majority of them doing the right thing with regard to their sweat: they wipe off the equipment after they are done with a towel. Some will remember the classic Seinfeld episode that addressed this issue (and that of peeing in a public shower). Most health clubs do ask that members wipe down equipment when they are finished with it. And this is just common courtesy, isn't it? It's not much to ask and no big deal. Yet, the apparently occasional users of the equipment in the park make no effort in this regard, by and large. None whatsoever.

But this isn't the end of it. Scattered around the park, particularly along paths and near the canal, there are also benches and picnic tables. Some people actually use these things as places to sit, to watch the scenery, to read, to even eat. Other people seem to feel these objects are just other pieces of exercise equipment. I kid you not.

As I child, I ran and played in parks, I climbed on pretty much everything available, including benches and tables. Children still do this; it's just part of their nature. But adults? And they're not just climbing on these things, they're using them in lieu of the exercise equipment already there. Why? I can't really say.

Today, there was a young lady who determined that a picnic table was the appropriate place for her to work out. She lay herself down on the top of one and proceeded to do a large variety of exercises, mostly on her back. I know this because she was on top of the table for at least three of my circuits around the park, for over twenty minutes. And she had been running the path before this, so she was already good and sweaty. I happened to see her dismount the table and head towards some other equipment. She didn't wipe it off, she didn't even have a towel. She just walked away, after coating the table in her sweat and the dirt from her shoes.

Which--I guess--demands a reading of one of my favorite Robert Heinlein quotes once again (from his novel Friday):
But a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.
My run--and her picnic table exercise routine--took place in mid-morning. I wonder if a family came to that table for a nice lunch later on in the day. If so, did they wonder why the table smelled of sweat and old socks? I sincerely hope this didn't happen, that no one used that table for the remainder of the day. Hopefully, an evening shower will wash away some of the sweat and dirt before someone else uses the table for a meal. Of course, tomorrow is another day. Perhaps the same young lady--or some other person--will be back on top of the table sweating up a storm once again. The table may very well be a lost cause.

And that's a shame. It really is. I can't wrap my head around what goes through the minds of people who behave this way, who--for lack of a better way to say it--shit all over things provided by parks and governments for all of us to use and enjoy. Is she even aware of just how rude and obnoxious her conduct was? Probably not. And that's really the point of Heinlein's quote. It's not so much the bad behavior, it's the failure to recognize one's own actions in this regard, it's the loss of a sense of manners, of a sense of propriety.

There's something else here, as well. And it's related to the article from Robert Kaplan that I recently discussed. But more on that in Part II.

Cheers, all.

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