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12/22/00 My Fantasy World
12/02/00 Merengue!
11/19/00 Laundry in Public
11/09/00 The Fly
09/20/00 Land of the Jogger
07/30/00 Noisy Neighbors
07/14/00 Bulk-Shopping Madness
06/23/00 My Backpack

Land of the Jogger

You can't get to know a place simply by driving by in your car. You have to smell the gutters and hear the kids yelling at each other in their backyards. Joggers know the cracks in the ground and what kind of bugs dwell there. They say hi to people who would normally be a blur outside our window.

The path I jog is dictated strictly by curiosity. Where does that street go anyway? Let's find out, shall we...

I live in the "Land of the Jogger." The place is like a giant track meet. Once in a while, you'll see someone pole-vaulting into their yard instead of using the gate.

When I look into a jogger's face, I can tell what kind of jog they are having. I can see when their legs haven't caught up to their heart or when they are belching up linguini they had for lunch.

I can also determine what type of jogger they are. In fact, I've begun to develop classifications like in high school biology: phylum, order, class, hypotenuse squared...

The first class of jogger is the Disciplined Jogger (DJ). The DJ gallops at a fitful pace, faster than he wants but not fast enough to satisfy the militant within. The DJ runs the same route at the same time no matter what. If need be, he will jog with crutches while a nuclear mushroom cloud billows on the horizon.

The DJ wears the expression of someone reading War and Peace on the toilet. I can think of one DJ in particular who must my block six times a day. He strikes me as an ex-Marine who, because of his slight build, only made the grade because he was willing to eat the enemy.

Then there is the Self-Pitying Jogger (SPJ). The SPJ is particularly entertaining because he plods along against his own will, dragged by some force demanding retribution against past sins. The SPJ looks like he could cry at any moment and only continues running because it is ordained by the gods.

The SPJ reminds me of a pudgy kid I knew in junior high school. This kid used to run his laps 50 yards behind everyone else, sweating profusely from the brow and plotting a lawsuit should he have a stroke. Incidentally, the SPJ welcomes a stroke if it means he can finally lie down.

Next is the Gabby Jogger (GJ). The GJ is usually female, but not always. We'll call her "him" just to be consistent. The GJ is a social animal who needs company to jog or doesn't go at all. The GJ jogs at half the speed of the Disciplined Jogger and must talk to keep moving. If talking stops, legs stop.

My grandpa used to say, "If you can gossip while you do it, it ain't exercise." He spoke from the comfort of his Lazy Boy recliner over a Pall Mall cigarette, but that was for ironic flair. So it goes.

The GJ is the least consistent of the classes and most likely to cancel a run in favor of a latte with extra whipped cream.

What kind of jogger am I?

I am your classic Nosy Jogger (NJ), who watches everyone else whether or not they know it. The NJ may detect only snippets of conversation as he passes but will spend the next several miles fitting the story together. If he catches you talking about a dermatologist appointment, he may assume that you have a tattoo of Janis Joplin on your rear end and are only planning to have it removed because you're getting divorced and realize that someone may actually see it.

The NJ peeks into your window as he jogs by because he needs to know what you're watching on TV. If you're naked, he will take a mental snapshot but feel bad about it afterward. The NJ may not be a jogger at all but simply a voyeur going to extremes to rationalize his actions.

Next time you're out, see if you can classify the joggers on your street. If you find one looking back with an equally intent gaze, it could be me.


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