It occurred to me on Thursday, while I was sprinting across campus, that while I’ll probably never in my life be chased by a rampaging grizzly bear (although you never know with our new education secretary), I now at least know for sure what I’d do in that situation:
I mean, it’s not like I expected to be able to outpace a bear, but it sure was a lot easier to imagine myself hypothetically running farther when I wasn’t actually having to physically run.
It’s so strange to think that I’m the latest product, honed by centuries of survival of the fittest, of my evolutionary lineage. I don’t know how to hunt for food outside of grocery aisles. I have a non-sense of direction. I’ve never started a fire (although my roommate kind of has). People pass me on the sidewalk, processions at a time. If you think about it, I’m cheating nature just by existing.
It makes sense to me that I couldn’t have flown under the radar forever.
Nature: You’re kind of useless and barely contributing to your species.
Me: But if you look at it a different way, I’m not really detracting either. Mostly I’m just here—shouldn’t that count for something?
Nature: Even so, it’s about time you proved yourself.
On Thursday afternoons, I and four other students carpool to an elementary school north of campus, where we volunteer. Google Maps says the site is a 17-minute drive away, but the traffic yanks that estimation upward to about 30 minutes.
This session, our first of the semester, we let out ten minutes late, which was a big deal to me because I needed to be back on campus within the hour for the 6PM film screening of the Golden Globe Best Drama Moonlight, at which one of the stars, UT alumnus Trevante Rhodes, would be speaking.
Friend, via GroupMe: there’s kind of a long line like it’s across the street
I was still on the highway and the car hadn’t so much as inched forward in the past minute. Google Maps estimated another 20 minutes, and I tried to reassure myself that the auditorium’s capacity was 1,200, so there was no way that—
Friend: I think it’s around 700+??
Friend: I’m #470 btw
I clutched at the windowpane and looked morosely out at the congested roads. “Free me.”
Our volunteer leader, who was driving, dropped off the others on south campus and kindly offered to take a right onto the street that runs along west campus to drop me off as close to the auditorium (north-central campus) as possible.
As soon as the light turned red for the second time to turn onto that street, I made my decision. “I’m gonna make a break for it,” I said, thanking him and scooting out of the car. And then I was off.
*gross running noises*
Backpack thumping against my shoulders, I whizzed past buildings and crosswalks and passersby who watched me with expressions like “unsightly, but I’ve seen worse.”
Every minute spent in motion was a minute I fought the urge to just keel over.
By every minute, I mean one minute, because that’s how long I was full-out-running for. I quickly slowed to an awkward skipping gait, in which I’d leap forward three steps and stumble and repeat. My chest cavity felt scorched. I breathlessly cursed everyone who went through this for fun.
I’d run 900 feet in that minute, which put me at about 15 ft/s or 10.2 mph. To put that into perspective, I was about as fast as an excited chicken or a bloated squirrel. Or a garden snail, if you picked it up and lobbed it at a speed of 10 mph. (Just a thought: the eighth wonder of the world should be how I can spend half an hour researching the running speeds of the entire animal kingdom and then genuinely ask myself why I can’t get anything done.)
I neared the building.
Friend 2: the crowd man
Friend 2: Join me lol I’m at the back
I didn’t hear a crowd. Maybe I was on the wrong side. I circled the building. Still nothing.
A lady emerged from the building, and, catching sight of my disheveled state, reached out to me. “Do you need help finding anything?”
I did, of course, need help finding something, but that didn’t stop me from being mildly offended that she would ask. I mean, yeah, I looked a bit worse for wear (read: like I’d been run over by campus bikers, which is honestly a danger I face each day), but I was wearing a backpack and obviously a student here. “Yes,” I said, telling her the auditorium name. She told me it was separate from the building and pointed across the street.
I didn’t know where this auditorium was, but I was fairly sure it wasn’t across the street either, so I called Friend 2. Turned out it was even further north. So I ran again.
I slipped into the line with Friend 2—this event allows people with school IDs and plus ones, so I thought I’d just enter as her companion—whose face blanched upon sight of me.
“You know,” I attempted through wheezes, “that feeling, when your saliva turns sour, right, before, you’re about to throw up?”
“… Just wanted to let you know.”
An event coordinator strolled down the length of the line, brandishing a red slip of paper in her hands. “Everyone get out your red ticket so we can make this faster, please!”
“What red ticket?” asked Friend 2.
I stopped the coordinator. “Where do we get the tickets?”
“They’re handing them out at the back of the line. You have to get them there.”
“No one gave me a ticket,” said Friend 2 slowly. “I was here the whole time. They missed…” We looked at each other in dawning horror.
And then sprinted to the back of the line, screaming internally. Or out loud. I’m not sure I could discern the difference at that point.
Friend 2 and I ended up #743 and #744, which meant that we made it inside the theater and also meant that we really hadn’t had to run. But how was Moonlight, you ask?
(But seriously, you should all go watch Moonlight if you haven’t already.)
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