I recently took a belt test in my martial arts class after a long afternoon of whiskey drinking (in fairness, dear reader, I had forgotten about the exact date of the belt test in the midst of all the usual holiday hubbub and chaos), and I found myself woefully ill prepared. I hadn’t bothered to ask what was involved in the test beforehand [again, to be fair, I previously trained in kung fu, where the belt tests weren’t “announced” per se…sifu would simply observe us individually during regular classes, and once he saw that we were proficient enough, a new belt would be awarded). And as mentioned supra, I spent most of the day before the test (which test, incidentally was at night (which is the only time these people meet and train…they’re like ninja monks)) drinking whiskey. So I was shocked…profoundly shocked, dear reader…when the first thing we were asked to do was run a mile in under 10 minutes. Which was a problem for me. You see, dear reader, I don’t run.
There are, as per our usual arrangement, myriad reasons for this. I can run. I mean I’m perfectly physically capable of running. I used to be pretty good at it…ran track in high school. But even then I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel right. It felt like I was going against my own nature.
You see, dear reader, I find running unbecoming. Undignified. Common. I’d say pedestrian, but I find walking to be completely dignified and appropriate in whatever situation.
Anytime I see someone or even a group of people running, my first thought is, “What are they running from?” which is followed almost immediately by “What a bunch of pansies…why would you run from anything? In public?” So I usually look at the direction that they’re running from, waiting to see Godzilla, or a guy on meth who stole a tank from the local national guard depot, or a Cartel hit squad up from Matamoros, or something. But there never is anything. At all. Perhaps I was wrong about these people. Or maybe they’re just running from themselves. That would make sense if it was a bunch of kids, but these are adults. Running. And if they’re not running from something, then the next logical question is, “Well, then…what are they running to?” Is a local radio station doing a cash-drop from a helicopter? Are they giving away free drugs half a mile that way? Lifetime supply of toilet paper to the first 20 people to show up at some grocery store? Was Jesus spotted in a park having a picnic with Elvis and the Buddha? Are there still local radio stations?
A few times in the past, when I’ve seen gaggles of people running, I drive by them in the gutter such that they get splashed with water, then I keep driving in the direction they’re going. And every time I get a couple miles down the road, I see nothing worth running for. Hell, I’m in a car and I’m not even slightly inclined to pull over for anything. Sometimes I think I should turn around, drive back and find the running gaggle and helpfully informing them that they can stop and calmly return to their homes: there is jack shit up ahead for you. But I never do, because fuck ’em. Who can be bothered? Not me, not today…I’m a Man on the Move. In a proper car. I don’t have time to fuck around with people who run.
I don’t like talking about things while I’m writing about them, but I think I can make a brief exception in this case. I recently spent a few years working in the mental health unit of a state prison. Once I got through the main gate, I had to walk over a mile and get through 7 more heavily locked and reinforced “doors” (sallyports and such) to get to my office. About 99% of that walk was outside with inmates, usually groups of inmates, walking around, heading to their first class or group or prayer service or whatever of the day. When I first started, I made this walk alone. Anytime I’d encounter any inmates, I’d always make eye contact and say a terse, “Good morning.” The white guys would say, “good morning” or “‘Sup, boss,” or something similar. The black guys would casually give a slow, “Aaaaalright.” The crazies wouldn’t say shit. But nobody ever lipped off to me. No assaults, no incidents. Ever. I helped soldier-carry friends of mine who’d been violently assaulted off the main yard, but no one ever messed with me. After a couple of months of working in this shithole every day, I got to know some of my coworkers pretty well. So, if we arrived at the main gate at the same time in the morning, we’d walk the mile together, out to our building. The majority of people who worked in my building were female psychologists and social workers. And when we’d walk in together, they quickly noticed that it was a very different experience than walking in by themselves. “First time in eight years I haven’t been ‘good-morninged’ once,” said one of my favorite psychologists the first time she walked in with me. “That was amazing.” Being told “good morning” may not seem like a terrible thing, but these were some of the worst men on the planet. Violent serial rapists, multiple murderers…one time I found myself watching The Jerry Springer Show in the day room on C Yard with a guy who was in for cannibalizing an 8-year-old boy. And being told “good morning” by such a person when you’re a small female walking alone through a prison before the sun is up can be…unnerving. Remember ‘The Silence of the Lambs’? What’s the first thing we ever hear Hannibal Lecter say? Yep: “Good morning.” And it’s creepy as hell.
So before long, word spread, and female employees would start waiting at the main gate for me to show up, then we’d all walk in together: me and 5-10 women. This started happening at lunch, also, when I’d walk the half-a-mile or so to the cafeteria, any females who wanted to go would go with me. During my final year there, I was very rarely seen without an apparent harem of mental health professionals. Because they felt safe around me.
On paper, they shouldn’t have felt safe at all. I’m 5’10”, 170lbs. Most of the inmates were 6’+, 300lbs. I may know a little martial arts, but I also understand the laws of physics. And so did they. I knew that any one of them would have destroyed me in a fight. And against more than one of them, I’d be ripped apart. Not only did they know it too, they knew that I knew it. So why did nothing ever happen?
There were a couple of contributing factors, but I think a big part of it was the way I carried myself. And a big part of that is the way I walk. If you’ve spent any time around me, you know that I have three modes of terrestrial locomotion: saunter, swagger, and strut. The differences between each of these are incredibly subtle and nuanced. They are very slight variations on the same theme. And that theme is bad ass. King Shit. The Man. I’m pretty in tune with my animal side…at least a hell of a lot more in tune with it than the majority of Americans seem to be. And in places like prisons, the rules of the animal kingdom apply far more than the laws of human society. And prison can be looked at as massive zoo full of apex predators who are only in their cages part of the time. Ask any inmate, they will back this up. So to know how to survive in prison, look to the mammalian kingdom (think wolves and gorillas). How do apex predators behave? A couple minutes of observation yields one very obvious conclusion: they are never rushed. And they don’t fucking run. Sure, maybe a quick burst whilst hunting or whatever, but for the most part, when getting from one place to another, they take their own sweet time. The betas and females might be inclined to scamper about, run hither and thither, but the main male never runs. Further, if the main male sees something running, he views it as weak, potentially as prey. Certainly not a threat. That’s exactly how it is in prison. And like it or not, when it counts, that’s how it is in the Really Real World.
Anyway, back to my belt test: I ended up running the mile in 10:02. Close enough, apparently…and fortunately the running was only a part of the rest of the belt test…the rest was all standing and fighting. I got my next belt.
But outside of such rarities as martial arts belt tests, dear reader, you’d do well not to run in public, lest you find yourself passing through the digestive system of an apex predator. #runningsucks
N.P.: “Go Down Deh” – Sachin Pandit