Jogging, Biking, Baseball … Ambulances

This article is about exercise and why I am not in favor of it. I favor long walks—sometimes I walk four miles and more. And I am in favor of stretches to loosen up the muscles beforehand. But—vigorous exercise—well, I take a pass.

Last Thursday, I sat in Central Park in Manhattan for hour and a half writing a story for this newspaper on my laptop. Central Park is beautiful with flowers this time of year. It’s also beautiful with people engaging in all sorts of strenuous physical activities. They take their chances. Specifically from where I was sitting enjoying the sunshine, I could watch several teams playing baseball on the great lawn. I could also see joggers and bicyclists moving smartly along on the nearby road that runs alongside the great lawn on the east. I could see Frisbee players, people playing basketball, people running with their dogs, and people skateboarding and roller-skating.

Occasionally, while writing—I was writing about it being the 100th anniversary of our famous East End painter Jackson Pollock—I would look up and see one or another person whizz by. They weren’t bothering me and I wasn’t bothering them. Sometimes a cheer would be emitted by one or another of the baseball teams. These teams are in uniform with numbers on their backs and often included both men and women. At this moment, as a fat, middle aged man at second base staggered uncertainly under a very high pop up, a slender, pretty lady in centerfield raced in, waved the man aside and dove recklessly through the dust and grabbed it just before it hit the ground. That was what the cheering was all about. Third out. The man seemed very grateful for the help however. I went back to typing.

The next thing I noticed was an ambulance. It had come quietly up a walking path to stop just behind the backstop of the nearest of the two baseball games. Some paramedics got out and stared out to the field. At the far end, at the other softball game, a small crowd of players—all wearing green shirts with white numbers on them—were huddled around something on the ground by second base. Two policemen appeared from a police car that now pulled up onto the path and stopped by the paramedics.

People near me on the benches stirred. A terrorist attack? A man with a gun?

Now I could see that there was a person lying on the ground by second base, but, oddly, the paramedics and the police seemed in no hurry to go out there. Finally one of the two cops looked at his watch and, with one of the paramedics, began to trudge across the lawn to that scene. Then the second paramedic and police officer got into the front seat of the ambulance, and the ambulance began to follow slowly behind the two others. Something bad had happened to somebody by second base, is what I thought. That was for sure. Wouldn’t you think they should be hurrying? I went back to typing.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, if you recall that day of Thursday, April 19. The temperature was in the low 70s. It was—urged on by global warming—just a wonderful summer’s day here in April in Central Park.

After another 15 minutes, I finished what I was typing and saved it on my computer. Then I packed up my stuff and started the walk back to our apartment. I did look out onto the ball field as I went by. Out on the nearest one, the game was continuing on. At the farther ball field, the paramedics were pushing a gurney with some person strapped to the top of it over to the ambulance. None of the players were following along. They just stood around.

But then I saw there was another ambulance stopped on the road that I would soon be crossing to head home. Its lights were flashing. Next to it was a police car also with its lights flashing. Coming closer, I saw a whole group of people in jogging clothes looking at a woman in jogging clothes sitting on the ground. This new set of paramedics was attending to her. As I came closer I saw I would be passing in the street directly between her and the ambulance that had just arrived, and no one would stop me. So I got a good look at her. She was a good bit overweight. She had this glowing white tube of some medical thing in her mouth. I thought this must be some new way of giving somebody oxygen. I passed through the scene and headed across the street.

As I crossed, I saw that up the road to the north no more than 100 yards from this earlier group was another group of people in jogging clothes apparently surrounding something. I could hear somebody in the midst of this coughing and struggling to breathe. Everybody seemed quite concerned. Then I saw they were around this second jogger sitting on the ground.

As I was about to walk down the pedestrian path that leads to Fifth Avenue, however, I saw that still another ambulance with its lights flashing had come up the curb onto the sidewalk below and was now heading slowly up the walkway toward me. I’d have to move to one side to let it pass and so I did that.

It came up pretty slowly, and it suddenly seemed to me that the paramedics in this ambulance was trying to get to whoever that person was up the street where there was no ambulance yet. I am a good Samaritan. I would tell them as they passed that the new group was to the right, and the closer group, which they could clearly see, already had an ambulance. I raised an index finger as they approached, hoping they’d slow down and roll down the window. But they ignored me and just went right to the wrong fallen jogger. Dumb, dumb, I thought.

I wanted to be especially careful crossing Fifth Avenue. A guy on a skateboard had been killed on Fifth Avenue the day before. Skated up to the back of a truck, grabbed onto a handle on the back and speeded up, then lost his grip and got run over by the taxicab following. Right there in front of the museum. Fifth Avenue had been closed from 79th Street to 86th Street for an hour, we had been told. We were downtown at the time.

I have to say; I did feel bad about that poor fellow hit by the taxi cab. Like I said, walking is good. Keep your head up and obey the laws. Forget about this workout nonsense.

But what about that guy lying by second base? Why had everybody approached so slowly? As I thought about it, it suddenly came to me. Dead. Just too strenuous.

As I said, walking is better.

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