Oh, joy and mirth! Outdoor weather is upon us. October mornings have drawn Tampa Bay residents from their hovels, like Hobbits tittering through the Shire for Second Breakfast.
Thanks to a cold front, Monday morning was a revelatory 60-ish degrees. Everyone brimmed with the zest that comes after being locked in an Instant Pot for six months. On the Pinellas Trail, I witnessed: practitioners of tai chi; new parents doing stroller workouts; babies wondering what their parents were doing; dudes busting out jumping jacks; cyclists galore; folks cruising in zippy wheelchairs; and the annual crop of Those Who Hate Running But Are Trying It Again Anyway Because Maybe This Time Will Be Different.
This is unfolding according to Florida’s plan, of course. Temperatures will creep back up before hitting heavenly winter strides. As we ride the tides of autumn, it’s time to review ground rules for coexisting outdoors.
1. Smile at those you pass but not just any smile. It’s the smile you give strangers at Costco while looking over stretch pants. Scrunched eyes, mouth in a straight line, full cheeks. We’re going for a pygmy sloth look. Too many teeth will appear deranged but not smiling at all is very 1980s financial sector.
1a. Don’t start smiling too soon! If you do, you will be stuck in that position longer than advisable. The timing takes practice, but your mandibles will be in the best shape of their life.
1b. Everyone has different degrees of ability, vision and hearing, so be considerate. And know that if someone doesn’t offer pleasantries, it might not be personal. Then again, it might be incredibly personal. Nature is a perfect place to dwell on faults, limitations and haunting mistakes.
2. If using headphones, check connectivity. Is Bluetooth on? Is the jack loose? Your reply to “good morning!” should not be an excerpt from the latest Staten Island Murder Party podcast. Not everyone is into that. I know, I don’t understand it, either.
2a. It’s fine to chat, but read the room. If someone is running an 8:24 pace, it’s not time to say, “WAITED ALL YEAR FOR THIS WEATHER HUH I GUESS THIS IS WHY WE LIVE IN FLORIDAAAAHHHH WOWEEE YOU KNOW THAT REMINDS ME WHEN I WAS UP IN NAPERVILLE AND THE BEARS WERE IN THE SUPER BOWL AND I TORE MY MENISCUS...”
2b. If you are on the receiving end, simply access pygmy sloth. You’ve trained for this.
3. Trails, parks and sidewalks are meant to be shared, so pass on the left, stay in your lane and give notice. This includes the Tour de France coming from behind. Some people have bikes from Walmart, okay?
3a. Be kind to parents. Maybe it seemed like a wholesome idea to ride bikes to lunch, but that was before an encounter with a wasp, a meltdown over sunscreen, 4½ bathroom breaks, a loose helmet strap, dad saying the word “&^%$,” the child repeating the word “&^%$,” two packages of crushed Goldfish and inconsolable tears.
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3b. Dogs are in charge. I don’t know what to tell you. They just are. Follow their lead.
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