Apparently, the radiation I’m inhaling is fine. Don’t worry about it. At least, that’s what the voice on the radio told me.
I was in the middle of an aggressive eight miler last night (Limbo Run) accompanied by the local alternative rock station streaming hard thumping angst into my brain and out my stride when interrupted by this news story. Local scientists, armed with some sort of blinky light, bippity-bop box with a spinning gyroscope attached (one assumes), had detected a slight uptick in the amount of radiation in the Michigan atmosphere due to the disaster in Japan. I’m huffing and puffing along, gobbling vast quantities of air as a runner hog tends to do, while listening to this. It caused a slight hitch in my huff. Of course, the kicker was the pronouncement that the levels detected were deemed ‘not harmful enough’. For what??? They didn’t say.
“Not harmful enough”? Are there three scarier words – besides “Pauly Shore Presents” – in the English language? That “ENOUGH” just hangs on the end of that sentence fragment doesn’t it? I was raised with classic Midwestern values so I prefer NO radiation in my air just like I’d prefer no mercury in my water and no Snooki on my TV. Apparently none of those things are happening any time soon.
I like to order a nice piece of salmon when Mrs. Nitmos and I head out for an evening of decompression from the kids. But I can’t just look at the menu and order salmon. I look at the salmon’s description, how it is prepared, where it came from, and consider the cleanliness of the restaurant and guess as to whether or not they know how to properly store and prepare this delicate dish. (I may have low level OCD. I’m hoping the radiation cures it.) Then I recall the articles from Runner’s World that warns you against certain types of salmon (Atlantic Ocean, I believe) due to suspect fishing methods and pollution. But, of course, I can’t recall exactly what I read. Did it say NOT to have this type of salmon…or this was the SAFE one? Usually, I say Fuck It, eat it, and wonder deep into the night if I just ingested poison.
I’m pretty good though at compartmentalizing my fears. I’ll never go to a psychologist because, if he opens that one door near the back behind those old Dostoevsky novels, a shadow of anger and fear will come rushing out that’ll end with me chewing on his scapula bone, like stripping the chicken from a drumstick, while crouched at the top of his bookshelf moments before being tazed and landing with a thud on the floor. I told you not to go in there. So the fact that I’m being slowly poisoned by every needful inhale will get shoved under the door of the dark room along with every other nauseating memory and unhappy fact. It’ll probably come to rest next to Giving Grandma a Back Rub.
I can only do what I can to stay alive and remain healthy. I can run. I can eat (reasonably) well. I can crunch and stretchy band my evenings away rather than couch and potato chip it away. I can sacrifice llamas and drink their blood to fuel my strength. Or do that just to blow off steam. All of this is within my control. And, in the end, that still may not be enough. We are all subject to the whims of external forces. Air currents, corporate pollution, an inattentive driver, roving packs of revenge-seeking llamas: these are things that can undo all the done up effort.
It’s pretty hard to be healthy these days. The air may or may not be poisoned; the drinking water contains toxins; my running shoes are unnatural and I should be running barefoot. My parents are still convinced that my running caused my arthritis. And who hasn’t heard that ‘all of this running is going to ruin your joints’? Damn, it seems to me that runners – marathoners particularly – are the unhealthiest people on the planet. After my next race, I’m going to check myself into the hospital to get my radiation and mercury levels tested and, what the hell, get some x-rays to see how my running shoes have ruined my knees.
Or maybe I’ll just forget about all of it and keep on doing what I do. Sure, fleeting thoughts of air pollution will creep in from time to time as I gasp my way up a tough hill. I can ignore the teenager leaning out his car window shouting “Run faster, asshole!” before screeching off down the street. My post-run water will come strained through the Brita filter. I’ll take all of the negative and shove it deep into my little dark room behind those old books.
The door labeled ‘Not Harmful Enough’.
I realize the folks in Japan, the Pacific Ocean, and the western states have it worse than us Michiganders. This is something I’m both horrified and thankful for. However, you don’t call yourself “Michiganders” so, really, who deserves a telethon hosted by Kanye?
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