I was out with some friends this evening and the conversation drifted to the decrease in light and what that has done to our exercise routine (or efforts at establishing one). One woman who likes to go out walking first thing, had shifted her walk a bit later in the morning. Another who goes for a morning run, was considering moving that run indoors for the sake of safety until the clocks shift.
That word, "safety" sparked a lively discussion, including talk of reported attacks at several popular local trails. A couple people said they never went on those trails any more. All of this was a surprise to me. I frequent those trails and hadn't heard a thing.
"How many attacks have there been?" I asked.
"What time of day have they happened?" asked another friend.
But the details, if they ever were known, had been forgotten. I got the impression that the incidents had happened some time ago, and were unrelated. I admit I felt smug. I believe in taking reasonable precautions, but refusing to use a beautiful resource because someone was endangered there once, a year or more ago, just isn't reasonable. I knew I wouldn't be changing my habits.
"Of course I never wear headphones when I'm walking." My eyes widened as everyone at the table nodded their heads knowingly.
"I'd be terrified if I couldn't hear everything around me."
"The police are always talking about it."
"It'd be like putting a target on my back."
Pop! Whatever smugness I'd felt was gone. I always wear headphones when walking. I keep the volume low to make sure I can hear approaching traffic, but there have certainly been times when I've lost track of my surroundings while listening to an interesting interview or story. From my friends' tone, there was no doubt they counted headphones while exercising outside, right up there with texting while driving, utterly stupid.
Everything they went on to say was quite convincing, and yet I kept looking for a loop hole, some way to prove that the way I use my headphones doesn't count. One of the things that gets me out the door on a walk is the anticipation of the shows I'll listen to while I'm on it (see the sidebar for my favorites). My ipod is such a part of my walking, that when my partner surprised me with a new one to replace the cracked and malfunctioning one I'd been using, he had "Ever Onward" engraved on the back.
I have gone for walks solo, without something in my ears, but the urge to stop early is very strong. The To Do lists and shoulds in my head are much harder to drown out when I have the sound of cars and lawn mowers for company. Part of me says that I should seek out places with more nature sounds, so I can get used to walking solo. While another part says, if listening to NPR on my headphones counts as dangerous behavior, maybe I need more danger in my life.
Where do you stand on the headphone debate? Feel free to leave a comment.