Things That Seem Odd

Things That Seem Odd Cover Image

John R York

April 19, 2024

Seems Odd to Me

Every morning for the past three years, I’ve walked to the end of my street and then back again, a distance of 1.8 miles. Sometimes I walk with my dog, Maxx, and sometimes Paula walks him. Often we all walk together.

During many of these suburban hikes, we pass other people also walking. There are no sidewalks in our neighborhood, so I always walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic. I’ve always walked on the left side of the road because that’s what I was taught to do and because it just makes sense. If you must walk on the street, you want to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic because you never know when someone will be texting or otherwise driving with their head up their…  Well, you know.

For good measure, I Googled it – “on which side of the road should pedestrians walk.” Sure enough, if there is no sidewalk, Florida State law requires pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic. So, you may wonder, why I’m making a point of this practice.

Everybody else out for a walk on this same road, everybody we pass while we’re walking, and everybody I encounter when I’m driving on this road is walking on the wrong side. I’ve always thought this was so odd. It’s not just one or two people, but everybody other than us. I began to wonder if maybe we were mixed up about this bit of road protocol.

One recent new arrival to our neighborhood is a deputy sheriff. I occasionally run into him walking his dog, Leo, and pushing his baby son, Willie, in a stroller. Sure enough, he’s on the wrong side of the road. One would expect a member of law enforcement to know the rule, but no.

It just seems odd.

Our friends, Michael and Abbey, invited us on their boat last Sunday. They planned to go south to a town called Indian Rock for lunch, about a 45-minute trip on their fast, 30-foot Cobia. It was a beautiful day: not a cloud in the sky, mild temperature, calm seas, great company.

When we arrived at the restaurant’s dock, a very glum, if not outright grumpy, dock attendant hurried down to our boat to help get us tied up. I jumped out to secure the stern line, but she told me in no uncertain terms that she would handle it. Okay. She must be having a bad day.

We all walked up to and through the large outside dining area to the hostess station where we were met by an attractive but stern-faced young woman. There were five of us in our party. She led us to a table for four. When we asked her if we might have a larger table, she simply said “no”, those tables were for larger parties. Okay. Maybe she was having a bad day too.

Our waitress was a young, stone-faced waif of a thing. She reminded me of a stereotypical astrophysics or chemistry student; no nonsense, no sense of humor, no personality. I attempted to make her smile with a couple humorous quips, but the frown on her face seemed to be permanently etched. I’ll give her partial credit for not rolling her eyes after my witty remarks, but she made it clear she would brook no stupid old-man jokes. Okay. Apparently, everybody in this place was having a bad day. I looked around, assessing everyone’s mood. The customers all appeared to be enjoying this perfect Sunday afternoon. Not so, the employees.

It just seemed so odd.

After my 75th birthday last October, I vowed to begin working out at the gym following a eight-year hiatus. I’ve been consistently going three days a week ever since making that commitment and I’m very happy with the results. I don’t try to train like I used to, back in the day, but I do train fast and hard. I get through a full-body workout in just over one hour.

I try to get to the gym at 8:00 AM. The other people in the gym at that time of day are typically people around my age, some older, some younger. The younger ones are focused on their workout, just as I am. The majority of the older people are mostly working on their jaw muscles, focused on aerobic chatting. Sometimes there are just two people, usually men, but often it will three or four.

I don’t understand why people go to a gym to visit. There’s nothing glamorous about the place. It’s called Powerhouse Gym and it’s a blood-and-guts sort of facility. I don’t really care that their workout consists predominately of chewing the fat, but the problem is that these chatty fellows are often cluttering up an area around a piece of equipment I and others need to use. We have to ask them to move. You would think this would motivate them to start or resume exercising, but usually it doesn’t.

I confess there is another annoyance factor about these gymnasium prognosticators that bothers me. Their conversations often involve sports or politics, both of which I find distracting – not the topics themselves, but the ignorance and know-it-all opinions that are difficult to avoid overhearing.

Why don’t these geezers just finish their workout so they can get it done and go home? All this standing around talking rather than working out seems so odd.

Odd Statistics

Being an author often causes me to wonder about the reading habits of Americans. Sometimes it seems nobody is reading anymore.  I remember a time when just about everybody read at least one book every so often. This was back when people also wrote letters – actual letters written in cursive handwriting with a pen or pencil. I have an old suitcase full of letters to and from my parents and grandparents, and from friends. I haven’t received a handwritten letter in many years. Admittedly, I haven't written a letter in years either. I have written and received cards with short notes handwritten inside.

With the advent of the internet and all its amazing attendant applications, writing and publishing a book is now something that just about anybody can do. These days, 1.75 to 3 million new books are published each year. I suppose that sounds like good news for both readers and authors, but statistics indicate that most of these publications go begging.

Here are some statistics that I find oddly disheartening:

  • 19% of Americans never read for pleasure.
  • 65% of Americans have not read a book in the past year.
  • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book after college.

Considering that I read 10 to 12 books a year, in addition to writing and publishing a new novel each year, I find this data startling – and a bit odd.

I Myself Am Odd

My wife, Paula, has, upon occasion, told me that I'm odd. Oddly enough, I've embraced this observation as a left-handed compliment. I don't think of myself as bizarre or weird, but I do admit my behavior can be somewhat peculiar or 'funny' at times.

People who know me well, know there is more than one dimension to my personality. Regardless of how I appear outwardly to others, there's a lot more going on in my head than meets the eye. My mind is almost always going full speed, contemplating things that would probably surprise most people.

One of the things that might be considered odd is that I'm almost always creating music in my head; day and night. For the most part, I don't do it intentionally, but it's almost always there. Here's another odd thing; I frequently think about the individual flavors of food and drink - each ingredient and how it contributes to or detracts from the taste of the final outcome.

I dream about stories in my sleep. That's where a lot of the material in my books comes from. If you really wanted to discover the extreme of what goes on in my dreams, you should read The Eighth Day. That story contains a bunch of weird dreamscapes that are the products of what goes on in my head at night.  

I think about current events, historical events, social issues, politics, people's personalities, conflicts, responsibilities, and so on. Every once in a while, I have to purge all these things from my mind, and that's when I act goofy, or as Paula would say, odd.

As my mother use to tell me, "Everyone is odd but me and thee, and sometimes I wonder about thee."