I made it to Indianapolis for the Indy Women’s Half this month; marking off state 15 of 50 including the District of Columbia. I can’t tell you what working on this goal has provided me. I’m a better planner, saver, runner, organizer, explorer, and traveler because of it. Most of all, though, I am a better thinker because of running. No kidding. I get to think a lot; real thinking, quality thinking. That is the beauty of running alone.
Obviously, since I am usually only away from home for a few days, I fly to my destinations. In my time spent in airports or on planes, I meet some very interesting people. I also meet people who themselves are not interesting but behave in a manner that causes me to sit back and listen to them. People love to talk about themselves (clearly I do too) and it’s easy to be a listener.
At the airport my TSA pre check status euphoria ended abruptly as the gate agent announced the cancellation of my flight. I decided to celebrate with a Blood Mary and a breakfast burrito while I waited. Soon I found myself in conversation with a man who also had time to kill. He seemed in a much more celebratory mood than I and dove straight into the story of his life. Eventually we got around to talking about grandchildren. I mentioned that I only have one, and that he is the light of my life. We spoke of soccer, little league and all manner of things. I mentioned that my daughter requested that I teach my grandson Spanish so that he can be bilingual and therefore, that is the only language I speak with him. The gentleman sat back and well, took a minute. Then he said, “Well your English is pretty good. I guess that’s ok.” I finished my meal and excused myself to wait at the gate.
I made it to Las Vegas where I needed to change planes. I went to the gate printed on my boarding pass and sat to recharge my phone and watch the news. As they called passengers into line, a gentleman said to me, “That’s interesting, we have the same boarding number.” Immediately, a woman behind me asked, “Are you sure you are at the right gate?”
I learned soon enough that in the delay and eventual cancellation of my earlier flight, my boarding pass was incorrect, and there had been a gate change. Lucky for me the plane i wanted was across the room and the doors had not yet been closed. I ran over, and made it just in time. The gate agent rolled her eyes at me and instructed me to take the first available seat.
As I boarded the plane I saw an empty seat three rows in. I gently tapped the man sitting in the aisle seat and asked if he would mind me taking the center row seat. He unbuckled and quickly moved to the center. I protested and asked him if he preferred to stay on the aisle he should. He declined stating he wanted to sit by his wife.
I sat down determined not to bother him by engaging him in conversation, or otherwise distracting him. He fell asleep and snored lightly. Eventually, he awoke to see me fiddling with my iPad. He asked if I knew where we were, so I showed him on the flight tracker. He thought that ingenious and we talked.
We talked about nothing in particular then he asked, “Where are you from?”
“Sacramento,” I replied.
“NO. I mean, where were you born?” he restated.
“Oh,” I said, “Bakersfield, California.”
He grew more exasperated. “I mean, what are you? What is your race?”
I said, “Mexican” and returned to my iPad.
I made it to the start of the Indy Women’s half with plenty of time to chit chat with the runners around me. I mentioned my ambivalence about whether to run with a rain cover or not. They countered with tales of the 2015 race and how it was “Black Flagged” requiring runners to return to the safety of a building and the official cancellation of the race. I had been warned by a friend in California who ran that particular race but refused to quit and in fact completed her goal; one of 25 women to do so. I hoped that wouldn’t happen this time.
The rain did come and it came in buckets. This was a little more than Cali drought-traumatized girl like me was ready for. But I dug in and started to unpack the cluttered drawers of the executive desk I call my brain. I thought about my feet and the tape I resorted to in hopes of preventing a blister like the one that sabotaged my CIM time. (For the record, I averted any sign of a blister this time.) I thought about the water dripping from my hat. I thought about the water streaming off my elbow…I had never thought about my elbow in a race before.
I thought about the way the ladies from the Black Girls Run group leapfrogged with me as we crossed watering stations (I carry my water) and how many young Latinas were also in the race. My stream of consciousness took over and I no longer felt the rain or my feet or my elbows. I thought about what the men said to me earlier. The thoughts raced through my brain as deep as the water in the gutters I was trying to avoid.
So, I thought, did that man give me permission to teach the baby Spanish as long as he was assured that he would also learn English? He was assured that I speak “English pretty good.” Did he realize that I dumb down my English depending on the audience? Am I supposed to rationalize his comments by saying, “Oh, poor thing had too much to drink?” I bet he would be the first to say, “Government/schools can tell me how to treat my children.” Perhaps I generalize him to be part of a group that thinks that way, and he is not. Wait, why am I correcting my feelings? Why didn’t I tell him to mind his own business? What would that have changed? That would make me rude and perhaps less than I want to be. Or would it?
And as for that other guy, and his question about where I am FROM. If he wanted to know my ethnicity why choose those words? FROM? FROM implies …not of here, but of another place. His insistence that FROM means ethnicity leads me to think that to him, white people belong here and others are inherently from without and logically then, do not belong here.
I am not FROM anywhere. I was born here.
Then again, I thought, poor guy is not very smart. I chastised myself for taking offense to something a not so smart person had to say.
Wait, why are ignorant people allowed to be rude? When did rude and discourteous become become the opposite of politically correct? They are not opposites. Rude and discourteous are just bad behaviors.
Then I slapped myself around. If he doesn’t know he is being rude is that his fault? Not if no one corrects him.
What if I had said Mexico? Would his next question be about my legal status?
Should I have asked him where he is FROM? And is being from DUMB BUTT County an excuse to stand up to political correctness (to be rude and discourteous?) Why did he ask me that anyway? I never ask anyone their ethnicity unless they bring it up as part of a conversation. I never think to ask that….which is also a problem. People are proud of their heritage and rightly so. But to ask for no reason at all is weird.
I kept running. I thought, “Everyone can tell from my pace that I am not Kenyan.”
I looked up and a young woman was praying to Jesus aloud. “This is crazy,” I said as I nodded to her, “We don’t get this kind of rain in California.”
She said, “I’m gonna pray for you too.” I thanked her and realized that the finish line was just ahead.
As I received my medal from a young man in uniform I thanked God for my Runner’s Mind. My drawers were all unpacked and I was ready for rest and perhaps some food. I walked around to the fountain so I could make a picture of it. I stared at the children playing, holding hands as they circled the base and I thought, no one cares where they are FROM….but I bet at least one of them speaks perfect Spanish.
Siempre hacia adelante!