Assignment : Hand Out Bottled Water to Green Lake Joggers
posted by November 16 at 13:05 PMon
On a gray and cold Wednesday afternoon, I decided to go to Green Lake and support intrepid joggers with bottles of water and free entertainment. I slipped on red booty shorts, a pink tank top and white orthopedic shoes I’d bought for a Richard Simmons Halloween costume and brought along an old boom box loaded with all the disco songs I could find on my friend’s IPod. I also brought a roll of white streamer paper people could tear through and feel as if they’d just reached the finish line of a marathon.
My friend Tristan helped me set up the finish line near Green Lake Stadium. It felt vaguely illegal tying a weak barrier across the congested path, but I figured I could lower the finish line with my hand if someone was trying to break a jogging record and didn’t want to slow down their time by tearing through the streamer. I lifted the streamer up from the ground and a jogger quickly tore through it. Then, while he was running, he turned his head back and glared at me intensely. This was the moment I realized I might die wearing a bad Richard Simmons costume.
I turned to my friend with a pained expression on my face. In order for people to enjoy running through the finish line, we’d have to prepare them for it. I grabbed the streamer and yelled at the next jogger, “Would you like to run through this? Like in a race?” The woman was wearing headphones and she ignored me. She ran through the streamer like it was something that was always there. She didn’t even flinch. I retied the streamer to the pole. Another jogger came running by and I asked her the same question. She stopped, took the headphones out of her ears and said, “excuse me?” I asked her, “Would you like to run through this streamer? Like you’ve reached the end of a race?” She shook her head no, and carefully climbed over the streamer. “Yay,” I said. “You did it.”
By this time there was a large pile of discarded streamers on the side of the path and I was concerned I would receive some sort of trash violation. Besides, the finish line was supposed to be fun, and people did not understand the joke. I threw out the streamers and began passing out water to people. I offered water to a middle-aged couple and they politely refused. The next couple saw the first couple refuse, and also refused the water I’d bought for them. Finally, a woman took a water bottle. “It’s not poison,” I joked. She didn’t laugh. I watched her as she passed by the trash cans to make sure she didn’t throw out the bottle. Another disco hit by Ashford and Simpson began to play on my speakers and I readjusted my sweatband so that the dangling parts weren’t right in front of my eyes. Why weren’t people accepting free bottles of water from me?
The sky began to darken and rain trickled down into my headband. I still had about twenty bottles of water to pass out. That’s when a gray-bearded man wearing a Raccoon hat and walking a fully-clothed dog tapped me on the shoulder. “Could I have a bottle of water?” he asked me and shot me a huge grin. “Sure!” I replied, thankful someone was expressing interest in my assignment. “You know, I love what you’re doing here,” he said to me. “I’ve lived a lot of places and I’ve traveled to over seventy-five countries. I’ve taught English, Psychology, History and Political Science. I’m a gay man and I love life. Just love it. I’ve been very blessed…” I waited for him to say “And I’ve never seen such amazing generosity in Seattle, never before have I been greeted with such kindness,” but he didn’t. He just went on and on about his life. I felt like he was reading me a scripted monologue he’d been tweaking in his head for the past fifty years.
In the end, I passed out about thirty water bottles, mostly to joggers, mostly younger folk. And I didn’t get beat up for wearing the gayest outfit Green Lake has ever seen.