The Time I Helped a Blind Lady Cross the Street

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This all took place several years ago, back when I was living in an apartment complex near an extremely straightforward traffic roundabout that still managed to baffle the legendarily awful drivers of Florida.

I had just finished a 5 mile evening run.  A few dry spots could be found in the bottom corners of my shirt, the rest completely drenched in sweat.  Just a short walk separated me from a much needed shower as I approached the traffic roundabout.

There she was, sunglasses that would be unnecessary for most people given the sunset in progress; a stick with the end marked red that would keep her from tripping over curbs and steps but could not save her from the calamity of Orlando’s perpetually puzzled drivers faced with a slightly unfamiliar obstacle.

I sprung into action.

“Excuse me ma’am,” I said, mostly to let her know that I was now standing next to her.  “Can I help you cross this road?”  She obliged and I apologized for my stench and the layer of sweat on my arm as she took it.

As I escorted her to the other side of the road, I asked where she was trying to go.  The Blind Woman explained that she was trying to reach the Wendy’s about a quarter mile from where we stood.  I agreed to join her for the entirety of the odyssey.

Ahead of us, a truck from the cable company was parked on the curb and its driver was tinkering in a large electrical box nearby.  Jutting out like oversized ears, the truck had those wide sideview mirrors that help alleviate some of the blind spots that plague larger vehicles.

With a little prompting, the Blind Woman explained that she lived in a nearby apartment complex.  She told me that she wasn’t always blind, that her vision had degenerated over several years.  Before she moved in with her daughter, she could get around just fine by memory.

The truck was just a few feet in front of us as we shuffled along, arm in arm.

I felt bad for her.  Not only was the Blind Woman new to this area, but she couldn’t even see any of the surroundings to gain her bearings.  I cringed to think of what might have happened to her had she taken on that traffic roundabout all by herself.

She wasn’t even trying to get something to eat at the Wendy’s.  She just wanted to have a general idea of how far apart everything was.  I launched into an explanation of other landmarks and hazardous intersections, told her about the gas station and the Chik Fil A, the office buildings and hotels on the other side of the wide street.

Then, I led the Blind Woman face first into the outstretched sideview mirror of the cable truck.

I was looking at her as we conversed, insisting upon undoubtedly the most unnecessary eye contact in the long history of human discourse.  She staggered backward upon impact, more startled than hurt.  I babbled a thousand apologies frantically, but she wasn’t injured or upset.

The presence of the cable company employee only amplified the throbbing wound to my pride.

I believe that when people have the ability to help each other, they have a responsibility to act.  In my mind, imagining what harm might have befallen this Blind Woman had she stepped foot into that intersection made me responsible for her fate (the same way I felt responsible for the fate of the drunk jogger who insisted upon running 10 miles to his house rather than letting me call a cab for him).

This line of thinking could save the world, but I’m self-conscious about telling stories like this.  I don’t want to come across as patting myself on the back for my good deed, even though I am proud of it.  Or at least I was until I botched it so badly!

The rest of the journey to and from Wendy’s was uneventful, thank goodness.  Upon dropping her off back at her apartment complex, I implored her to be careful around the traffic roundabout.

Hopefully she found no shortage of people willing to help her cross the street.

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Since Last We Spoke

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Life Update

Dear Blog/Blog Readers,

I’m sorry that it’s been nearly two months since last we spoke!  I’ve made some changes in my life that have taken up a great deal of my time (and my words).  As terrible as I am at keeping my life in balance, my recent freelance writing pursuits have pushed the Brantley Blog right out of my mind.  

I will do my best to sum up the past 51 days in a series of short impressions and updates.  In this post, I’ll only deal with non-freelance writing stuff (that’s a whole ‘nother post!).

Disneyland Avenger’s Half-Marathon  

I just started training for the Avenger’s Half-Marathon in Disneyland.  Months and months ago I was too broke to buy new running shoes, so naturally, I pretended like my old shoes were just fine.  Boom.  Plantar Fasciitis.  I can’t seem to kick the arch pain in my right foot.  It doesn’t bother me when I’m running, but I have to stand for hours on end at work and that’s when it really acts up.  I’m pretty nervous about my training now.  I don’t want to exacerbate the injury, but I have to go on living my life (AKA running my miles)!  Plane tickets are booked.  Trips to San Fransisco and the Redwood forests are planned.  After this half (which is in November), I’ve got another full marathon in January. 

How Not to Make New Friends

Making new friends at work is making me realize that my people skills are weird.   There are definitely some bizarre things that I shouldn’t have said to people who don’t know me that well.  

Example 1:  Someone brings up that a co-worker doesn’t get to see his daughter because the baby momma is “a bitch.”  In an effort to lighten the mood, I pondered aloud the possibility that the baby momma truly is a “bitch” and that the daughter is a dog-human hybrid monstrosity that the co-worker father can’t bear the sight of.  It didn’t so much lighten the mood as bring the conversation to a screeching halt and fill the bar with silence for what felt like a few hours.

Example 2:  I was walking quickly to my car after work because the distance between the restaurant and my car in the parking garage is 100% not-air conditioned.  I passed two female co-workers.  One of which joked that I snuck up on her and I joked back that she should be more vigilante because it’s a big scary world full of dangerous people.  I said this to her in a parking garage…in the middle of the night.  Why?  Why would I say that?  

The Great New Radio Station Sucks

There’s a new radio station in Orlando!  It plays solely alternative music, which is a dumb, moving target industry term that effectively means “weird stuff that doesn’t suck yet still finds its way onto pop and rock radio stations.”  Think an Imagine Dragons station on Pandora. 

They kicked off their existence with 10,000 songs in a row with no commercials, which was thrilling because they play The Black Keys, Bastille, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Imagine Dragons, and quirkier weirder stuff.  

Their cardinal sin is that they are still a radio station.  Anyone finding themselves iPod-less/CD-less/Spotify-less and doomed to listen only to what the radio has to offer can attest:  There is a music industry belief that people can only handle a few new songs at a time or else _________ (fill in your own dire consequence here.  Mine would probably read “the public might realize that there are millions of music options and that the radio is an outdated tool for discovering worthwhile songs,” but “the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man will destroy New York City,” would be an interesting fit too).  This belief has infiltrated my beloved alternative radio station and we are currently engaged in the following frustrating yet inevitable exchange:

Radio:  Oh you like the Arctic Monkeys?

Brantley:  Yeah, they’re pretty good.

Radio:  Okay, then we will play them twice an hour or maybe just every time you get in your car and tune in.

Brantley:  But won’t that make me hate them?

Radio:  You like The Black Keys too, right?

Brantley:  Yeah, but you didn’t answer my last question.

Radio:  Okay, then we will alternate almost exclusively between the Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys on our station since we know that those are bands that you like.

Brantley:  But that will make me hate both of them.

Radio:  Shhh!!!  We’re playing “Fever!”

Brantley:  Look, there are tons of bands that I like and even more bands that I would like, but haven’t heard of yet.  You guys have a captive audience in this guy right here.  Maybe just give me the illusion of respect and use your position to promote interesting new music that people might really fall in love with.

Radio:  Okay fine.  We will throw in Cage the Elephant, but for every one time that we play them, we are going to have to play “Rude” by Magic thrice.  

Brantley:  I’m going to listen to an audiobook instead.

Also this radio station needs to change their batteries because they come through staticky just about everywhere in the city.  I’m pretty sure they were being overpowered by some dick with an FM transmitter listening to The Police the other night.  

Margaritas Are An Art

In an attempt to occasionally order something other than beer, I’ve discovered crappy margaritas at numerous bars.  I don’t know how to make them myself, but I don’t feel like they should be so hard.  My girlfriend makes an orange juice heavy margarita that is tangy and delicious.  Rocco’s Tacos (which is in my opinion, heaven on earth) makes tasty margaritas that are simultaneous smooth and crisp by some feat of sorcery.  

I’ve noticed that ordering a margarita occasionally raises eyebrows.  I’m not sure if it’s a “girl” drink or just an uncreative way to choke down liquor.  Either way, I don’t care.  Margaritas bring back fond Taco Memories for me, and Nacho Nostalgia.  

Maybe my love of margaritas is heavily influenced by this little Brantley Trivia tidbit (and this will shock regular readers of the blog):  I’ve never had too much tequila.  I’ve never puked or suffered a tequila hangover.  I don’t know how I’ve accomplished this, but I think that some credit goes to the booze-sponginess of Mexican food which seems to absorb 2-3 drinks in terms of alcohol tolerance.  

Remove the Nuts Before Jacking It Up

I helped a co-worker change a flat tire in the parking garage after we left the bar last night.  It was surprisingly not all that bad.  My worst memory of changing a flat tire involved me jacking the car up before removing the lug nuts.  The wheel spun as I manhandled it with the tire iron.  Frustration ensued.  Also it was hot, as it always is all the time everywhere in Florida.  Don’t get a flat down here.  

My Anti-Drug is:  Non-Existent

Many of my co-workers express enthusiasm for smoking pot.  After smoking a select few times early in college, I quit to pursue a job that I was certain would require drug testing.  Though I did get the job and they never tested me, I still abstained.  I just didn’t miss it that much.  I’m a junk food fanatic with motivation problems.  I’m practically stoned 24/7 by sheer virtue of my personality.  

That being said, people ask if I smoke and I tell them no.  Being an illegal hobby, they sometimes want to know why as if I’m on the verge of calling the cops.  I honestly don’t have a good answer.  I just don’t smoke.  I don’t care if other people do.  I just don’t.  I’ve got allergies and I’m not interested in putting smoke in my lungs (which don’t even seem that fond of air).  I’m either convincingly uninterested or off-puttingly strange enough that they don’t bother trying to peer pressure me into joining them when they light up.  

Smells Like Twenty-Something Despair

Our restaurant plays a boring, elevator music playlist of only about a dozen songs. All day.  Everyday.  On repeat.  They have a muzak version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Every time it plays, a little piece of me dies inside and I fear that I will soon be no more than a shell of a human being, a dried up husk with a soul made of dust.  

Question for Marathoners

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Now that the dust has settled from the Disney Marathon, I’m starting to look forward and plan some more races for this year. I did improve my time, but I didn’t quite reach my goals and overall, I feel like I could have been faster on race day.

Marathoners, this is my situation: My legs felt tired on the day of the marathon. They first started feeling heavy during miles 8-10. I was definitely tired around miles 13-14 and by the time I hit one of those epic climbs on a highway overpass at mile 16, I had to start walking a little bit, running a little bit for the rest of the race.

Nutrition-wise, I felt great. I didn’t get muscle cramps from dehydration. I didn’t hit the wall. I ate and drank everything they handed us and didn’t suffer any nausea or cramps from overdoing it.

Cardio-wise, I felt perfect. My heart rate and breathing were comfortable. If not for the muscle fatigue, I think I could have kept running forever and ever (like that montage in Forest Gump).

Knowing what I did right, it’s difficult for me to understand what I did wrong for my legs to feel so heavy that early into the race.

Any ideas?

10 Hammered Miles – TBT

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In honor of the marathon I will be running this weekend (my second), I figured I would share one of my odder encounters during college – and that’s saying something.  

It was senior year and I was training for my first ever half-marathon.  Things were going fairly well with the training, which involved routine runs just across the street from UCF’s campus.

I was in the home-stretch of a routine 5 mile run when I noticed a guy jogging on the other side of the road, which was grass rather than sidewalk.  It was two lanes each way with a large median between, so I had to squint to confirm that this college student in beast mode was running barefoot like a boss.  Beyond his sturdy feet, which I’m sure possessed Hobbit-like resiliency, he impressed me with his pace as he pulled out further and further ahead of me.  I wasn’t racing him by any means, so I let him fade into the sunset with no further concern.

When I caught up to him again, he was doubled over puking.  I was nearing the end of my run and I had half a bottle of water left, so being the good samaritan that I am, I crossed the road to check on him.

They say that humans are about 60% water.  Well this fellow was 60% vodka instead, so I suppose he wasn’t a human at all.  I asked him if he was alright and he was still drunk enough to insist that he was, but he accepted the water anyways and thanked me.  As we walked away, he told me about his fun day drinking at the pool on campus with the bros.  Several yards away from the vomit, I began to suspect that his sweat, breath, and skin were a stomach-churning 150 proof based on the Pig-Pen like cloud that he seemed to be living in.  I couldn’t help but picture him dissolving into a puddle of Skol lighter fluid like that Senator in the first X-Men movie.

x-men melting senator

But he felt bad about cutting my run short, so with all of the pleasantries out of the way, we started jogging again.  Seeing as how he would probably be dead from dehydration pretty soon, I let him set the pace.  We were going slow enough for me to carry on a conversation with him, which back then meant that we were running slightly faster than the ground beneath our feet.

“I’m jogging home!” he announced to me.  My own house was coming up soon, so I wondered if he lived in my neighborhood.  He didn’t.  Instead, he lived off of Dean Road.

I don’t expect that to mean anything to you, so allow me to explain.

That’s like 5 miles away, running along one super busy road, crossing it, running down another super busy road, crossing that one, all the while hoping that the soles of your bare feet are pale enough to persuade the insane drivers of Orlando not to splatter you into Jello shots with their cars.

jogging to dean road

He was drunk enough that I didn’t mind stating the obvious, “That’s a long way, man.  Were you planning on running that?”

“Yeah dude.  It’s fine.  I’ve run like 10 miles before and I was even drunker than this.”*

“Do you want me to call someone to pick you up?”

“Nah dude.  I lost my phone at the pool.”*

“I could call you a cab.”

“It’s cool man.  I’ll just run.”*

* I’m assuming this is what he was trying to say, but he was a once-in-a-generation talent at slurred words so I’m not 100% sure.

I didn’t know this guy well enough to get aggressive about his intoxicated well-being, so I stuck to my manners.

“Well, this is my neighborhood.  You should at least swing by and let me give you a bottle of water or something.”

He thought that was a cool idea, so soon we found ourselves in my kitchen.  He was throwing back glasses of water like it was the saddest happy hour in the world.

With his Vodka Body Mass Index or VBMI (if this isn’t a real thing, it should be) down in the 55-58% range, he decided to take me up on the offer to use my phone.  Luckily for him, a phone number was accessible to his brain through the haze of a black out drunkenness.  Unluckily for him, that number belonged to his boss.  He left a strange voice message.  It sounded like one very, very, very long word.

I asked if he wanted to try again, and the liquor figured it wouldn’t be worthwhile.  I didn’t have money to call him a cab, but I offered anyway.  He declined, seeing as how his wallet was with his phone, probably off somewhere planning an intervention for him.

I offered to drive him home if he promised not to puke in my car.  Being the stand up guy that he apparently was, he refused to make a promise he couldn’t keep.

With an abundance of “Tankyuuzz,” “Thansssmanns,” and “Baies,” and the bottle of water that I gave him, he staggered up the street, out of my neighborhood, and out into the world again.

His boss’s number was in my phone, so I called and left a voicemail in English.  He never called back though.

Seeing as how I read local newspapers religiously the following week and found no article about a human-shaped vodka vessel being hit by a car, I have no idea what happened to him.  I have to assume that he made it, whether it was that night or the next morning after he woke up in the bushes and then continued drunk-running home.

I feel pretty confident that nothing bad happened to him, because local news in Orlando lets us know anytime anything bad ever happens to anybody in Central Florida in the most terrifying fashion imaginable.  That is, of course, between our Casey Anthonys and George Zimmermans.

I told this story to some friends when we were tailgating a couple months ago.  The general consensus was, “You’re a much better person than I am.  I would have given up on that guy way sooner than you did.”

I guess that’s a good thing.