1.35 The Running People

TORONTO, ONTARIO: This whole sharing stories thing is quite fun. I figured I might as well continue and here is a story I jotted down while waiting an eternity for a bus. ***

There was a place that paralleled our own world. In this other place, everything was the same: People woke up, ate breakfast, went to work, worked all day, went home, did whatever it was that they did at home and fell asleep. Repeat. There was love and hate; kindness and suffering; tenderness and violence. It was the same.

The only difference was that walking did not exist. Think of your life right now – all the events and experiences and situations – and just remove the walking part. In place of walking, everyone ran everywhere. They were rushing through life.

One day, a man woke up and ran into the shower. He slipped and banged his head and lost the ability to run. This man was not an extraordinary man, on the contrary, he was average in every way: Looks, ability, resourcefulness, intelligence, personality. But now he was unique.

He walked to work. It goes without saying that he garnered more strange looks from people running by than on any other day of his life up to that point. It would be something he needed to get used to, these strange looks.

He decided to forgo the elevator and walked up the stairs. People passed him running down. A woman in high heels tripped when she craned her neck to watch this strange man who was not running. They did not even have a word for walking. The physical act had yet to be discovered, let alone defined. At first, they called it ‘not-running’.

The man walked through the office to his cubicle. People talking on phones hung up, drop-deafened receivers emitting dead dial tones. Others stood with mouths in ‘O’ shaped awe. This not-running spread through the office and middle management ran to the man’s cubicle. They asked him into their office, wanted to bring him out of sight. They run and waited for him.

They would not be able to describe how the man made it from his cubicle to their office. Sauntering? None of the words or phrases associated with walking existed. Moderate speed, stop and smell the roses, ambulate, stroll, under your own steam, walk out on a relationship or a job, pirates making people walk the plank. In the absence of the concept of ‘walking’, the game of baseball was quite different and there was no such thing as the Olympic sport of Pedestrianism.

By the time the man strolled into the middle management office, the bosses already called the police, who ran immediately to this most serious crime scene. The man walked into his jail cell and paced back and forth. What was the crime?

Scientists, academics and doctors were brought in to study the man but nothing could be found. They had no cause to keep him locked up, so he was released. Crowds of people waited outside the jail. Some camped for days out of curiosity. Others were down right hostile and accused the man of being a dangerous anomaly in the evolutionary sense. However, he received three marriage proposals and two offers for book deals as he walked through the crowd.

Everyone wanted a piece of him but he had so little to give. In a rare interview, the man coined the term walking, which came not from a well thought out examination of his new power, but a lightening bolt of inspiration that occurred on the spot. Improvised, you could say.

They didn’t know what to do with him. He became more of a sideshow act, a freak that people prodded with a stick from far away. He was lonely, lacked any connection to those around him – how could they relate? He cut off the world, not wanting any part of it. People soon moved on to the next circus act and he was left alone, watching the world run past his window. This was a dark period, one that lasted for many years.

And so, one day he left his house, walked past the town line along the highway, into the next state, the next country. People recognized him, tried to follow but they just ended up running past. They would wave at each other, often shouting encouragements, snippets of conversations that would never be completed.

The man only stopped to eat and sleep until another inspiration hit him. He could help. He could teach people to walk. The man established walking clinics, produced infomercials and made lots of money. For the rest of his days, he walked from one place to another in this place that is like our place but not, teaching people to slow down.