Living in the city is full of all sorts of weirdness, which makes it amazing when one loves people watching as much as I do. But it wasn’t watching people watching that got me this time. It was whatever the opposite of that is. And what happened wasn’t weirdness, as much as it was… I don’t know… creepy weirdness?
I happened upon a strange phenomenon while out for a run through the streets of downtown Salt Lake City at 12:30 AM a few nights ago.
But before I get into it, let’s talk about that.
Not too long ago I told you all how I was trying to finally love running! And how the middle of a crazy cold winter was (by far) the best time to do it! Well, my love for running has only increased (please note deep sarcasm if you didn’t read that post). I’ve picked up a few souvenirs on my runs since writing that, which have included side aches, a lightly twisted ankle, and on the last run, this…
I don’t know if I accidentally clipped my pinky toenail into the razor-sharp shape of a small dagger. I don’t know if the culprit was a somewhat new pair of shoes I was breaking in. I don’t know if the universe was just trying to tell me “dude, quit trying to be a runner.” I do know that halfway out, with nowhere to escape but the other halfway home, it started feeling like a nail gun was shooting into my ring toe (that’s a toe, right?) with every step. I fully expected blood when I removed my shoe, and blood is what I got.
I don’t understand you runners. But I am going to figure you out. I do actually enjoy it slightly more than the first day I did it (and I mean ever so slightly, so don’t go getting all excited at this confession).
Of course, I’m a single dad. And I am trying to make a living. And life is just crazy for me as it is for anyone. That means sometimes the only time I can get to go workout is late at night, and I prefer exercising outside no matter the conditions or the hour. This time happened to be the middle of the night, when there was no warmth in this part of the world, taking on the streets of the city.
This would scare a lot of people. The streets of downtown are usually dotted with real weirdos that time of night, and not many of them feel unmurderous. Being out late doesn’t scare me too much, though. Never has.
I’m a big dude, almost six and a half feet tall with a big frame. Oh, I’m almost all squishiness and rainbows and frumpiness under these hoodies, but looking at me fully clothed paints a slightly tough-guy different picture. I assure you it’s just the shape of me. I look tough. Sometimes, when I get accused of being tough and fit and muscular, I wanna strip to my undies, shake my belly flub, and be like… “how tough do you think I am now?”
Anyway. Yeah. I just don’t feel unsafe out at night because I don’t think I fit the profile of “someone you wanna tangle with.” I also said I’m not scared too much. Sometimes things are scary. It is downtown, after all. And there are lots of real weirdos, who aren’t the delightful kind of weirdos you and I are.
And that was the long way of circling back in this blog post to my nearly toe-severing middle-of-the-night run the other night.
My smart watch told me it was 19 degrees outside, but my smart watch was dumb because it didn’t account for the windchill which was making me seriously regret my decision to get fit at all. Icy gusts constantly assaulted any exposed part of me. I admit, I did not care for the coldness.
Apparently nobody else did, either. Not even the real weirdos. I did three miles (I assure you, not all of that was running), and for the first time since moving to the city, I didn’t see or pass a single person. No college students. No homeless people huddled and bundled in corners. No people riding to work on bicycles (whom I’ve somehow seen even in the worst storms). No other idiot joggers. No one taking their walk of shame.
In three miles, I didn’t see another human being. Not one. Not even in a passing vehicle.
This isn’t a small town. Downtown Salt Lake City has actually turned into a regular, bustling, 24-hour-per day, crime-ridden, class-dividing, public transit using, diverse, eclectic city. It has turned into a place where you sometimes actually see dark figures in dark corners at night. You sometimes actually see police chases. And you always see other people. Always.
Except the other night. Three miles through the streets of downtown, I didn’t see anyone. Not a soul. Not a single passing pedestrian. Not a single passing car. I went across the bridge leading to the main city train stops. Nothing. I went past open corner shops and grocery stores. No one.
It’s not like it was a truly ungodly hour. It was just after midnight. Yet, it was all so quiet that it was actually creepy. Traffic signals were still changing. Lights through windows were still shining. And the only thing to be heard were my footsteps, my gasping dying breaths, and the icy wind whipping through the trees.
It felt very post-apocolpytic. I was just waiting for the epiphany that I was indeed the last person on Earth. Or for zombies to appear. Or… something. I don’t know what I was waiting for the whole time. Anything that made me feel less alone, I guess?
Strange things are seen in the city. You all know I love sharing the weirdness of the city with you. This time the strange thing to see was… nothing at all. Downtown had become a true ghost town.
I was the real weirdo in the city that night. Have no doubt about that.