Only a few days ago I was immune to the 24 hour barrage of reports squarely obsessed on the swine flu outbreak. I thought too many people were over the top with out of place trepidations. Sometimes, however, immunization breaks down and a crack in the shell appears. My crack surfaced and revealed itself in my level of consciousness.
Driving home from work yesterday, in compliance with Joe Biden’s proclamation, I made Alley Pond Park in Queens a via-point to carry out one of my habitual running sessions. I made a quick visit to the park house, twice I thoroughly washed my hands (following President Obama’s decree) and I began my mental preparation for the 6 mile round trip trek. As I began to envision the route of my trot, the paranoid side of my brain realized that the half way point loops behind St. Francis Preparatory High School. Yes, the same St. Francis Prep associated with the New York outbreak of H1N1. Random inane voices seeping through my logic began to ask questions. Is it safe? Will I be too near the epicenter? Should I get back in my car and fight the traffic to another trail? Is there a hotline I can call? What would Joe Biden do?
As I bent down to tie my sneakers, reason thankfully began to take hold. Deliberate utterances in my head said of course I will run here. But, true to my form-I compromised. I decided not to follow my normal trail through the woods, for that road leads to a prep school. Instead, as I took my first strides, I began to map out a circuitous path that would mimic the overall length of my desired workout by utilizing the surrounding streets to encompass a broad sweep of the park that would manage to safely round back a few blocks short of the virus hub.
I made a turn and headed west on Union Turnpike, passing only the wooded outskirts of the park for about a quarter mile. Serenity began to set in. A few blocks more though and I skirted by a couple, as they headed hurriedly into a doctor’s office. What’s their rush? Is this safe? Should I be at home?
I kept running, as my tempo was good, the temperature was in the high 50’s, dry and I certainly wanted to take advantage of these prime conditions. As I ventured toward Hollis Hills Terrace I chose to veer north along a boundary between Alley Pond and Cunningham Park. There were more crowded ball fields to pass, more ice cream vendors to dodge and my antennae involuntarily heightened. A man zigzagging back across the road, following his dutiful retrieval of an errant soccer ball sneezed heavily as we cut past each other. Was he sick? Or was it an allergic reaction to the recently cut grass? I kept pace and didn’t look back.
I did not want to risk penetration into the more populated areas and so I turned back east along 73rd Avenue and then south on 210th street, all the while using fences and park perimeters as my guide. I meandered my way back to Union Turnpike and headed east for a second time. Back once more by the physician’s office, and strangely now I became the object of a woman’s glare, as I blew out a deep breath to maintain my body rhythm beginning mile 4. Does she think I’m sick? Is she paranoid? Am I allowed to run here? What would Joe Biden do?
I darted across Springfield Blvd, feeling lively, strong and ready to step up the pace for the home stretch. Briskly I pursued the park house I had embarked from 35 minutes ago. A sharp turn north at Winchester Blvd dropped me in the midst of more ball fields, more crowds and more concern. I managed to clear my head and spurred myself on for a few more laps, hoping that in a month or so the higher summer temperatures may eradicate this pandemic wannabe of a bug.
I came to rest at the far end of some tennis courts and then began a slow cool down back toward my car. But I was veered off course by a klutz, swiftly exiting and loosely swinging his bag and racket. ‘Hey-damn it’, I yelped. I declare six feet. You are in violation of the six foot rule!