The sale was going to start at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, but numbered tickets were going to be handed out starting at 6:30. We drove up on Friday and arrived a little before 3:00 p.m. to put a couple of boxes in line to hold our place until the next morning, then we went to visit the arboretum and take a leisurely stroll around campus.
We arrived back at the arena the next morning around 6:00 and made a little small talk with some of the other members of our itinerant biblio-tribe, then collected our numbers. Most people got back in their cars to drive into town for breakfast, but as we’ve done for the last couple years, we used the opportunity to grab a prime parking spot. It was only two miles down to College Corner, and we’re always up for a good walk. We took off at a brisk pace, wanting to have plenty of time to eat and get back in line.
It was an absolutely beautiful morning. Maybe not by most people’s standards — there had been a torrential thunderstorm around midnight, and the skies were still slate-grey, though merely overcast. No threat of further rain. Temperatures in the low 50s, with a slight breeze. For me, there couldn’t be more gorgeous weather for a walk. It made my heart sing. And campus walking, especially early on a weekend morning after graduation, is one of our favorite things to do. It’s a pleasant feeling of kenopsia to walk past such stately buildings and perfectly manicured lawns with hardly any sign of human activity anywhere.
Shortly after we had crossed the street and passed the stadium, the Lady said, jokingly, “We’re being followed.” She spoke truly, for there was an older couple not far behind us. I’d been vaguely aware of them back there since we left the parking lot, but now they were close enough that we could hear them. Before they caught up to us, though, they veered left and headed down near the tennis courts and swimming pool, while we continued down the sidewalk along the main road. The speed of their pace and the purposeful manner of it made me suspect that they were also heading down to the Corner for breakfast and they knew a shortcut. Several minutes later, our parallel paths converged, and they were indeed a little bit ahead of us. “The stalker has become the stalkee,” I whispered, but a few minutes later, we had to admit that despite our respectable clip, we were, in fact, getting dusted by a couple of sprightly greyhairs.
They went into the waffle shop where we had eaten last year, but we continued for another half-mile to a different one, where I discovered that a three-cheese omelette with a few fun-size hash brown patties and a couple slices of toast provide enough fat and protein to keep a fellow feeling energetic and sated for almost seven hours, despite four miles of walking and a day’s hard work.
After finishing breakfast, having made such good time, we went back up the main lawn and past the library, taking a more relaxed amble this time. When we turned back onto the main thoroughfare again, though, we saw our fellow saunterers coming up via a perpendicular sidewalk. This sort of serendipity, this brief membership in a transient club of four, we felt, had to be acknowledged, so we turned toward them as they came into earshot and offered a hail-fellow-well-met. The Lady asked if they were also at the sale, which they were. They said they were surprised, because they thought they were the only ones who ever walked into town. We responded in kind. We asked if they were locals, seeing as how they seemed to know their way around. The wife said, “Well, he was a local, from ’71 to ’75.” “A lot of the buildings are different now, though!” he added. We fell into step together and chatted the rest of the way back to the sale.
By my math, if he was a freshman in 1971, that would make him 74 or 75 years old now, and I assume his wife was about the same. They told us that they bike about 30 miles every other day as well, near their home in Amish country. “No matter how tired I am, I never let myself get passed by an Amish buggy!” she asserted. I had to laugh in appreciation of that competitive spirit. Other than the grey hair, you wouldn’t guess they were anywhere near that age. Spry and athletic, they could have easily passed for being in their early fifties.
I don’t have any grand conclusion to the story. I just thought it was inspiring to meet such a role model. Hopefully the Lady and I will still be that fit and active at the same age, still strolling around campuses early on summer mornings.