The sun was rising from over there. That is what it usually does. It was finally warming up now and my legs felt good underneath me. Last year, it was already in the 30s in early November, but now, it felt like it was in the 50s already. The early morning may be the best time of day in the District. There is no traffic, no noise, no stress, no people. Just pigeons pooping on statues, and yesterday’s copy of the Examiner/Express tumbling down streets designated by numbers, letters and states. The only action comes from the shadows, gradually changing the scenes from static to active. The shadows are short, and only a few busses plod along. The shadows aren’t alive or dead, they just lie there, defining the temporary absence of light. The busses run on natural gas.

Soon the District will be lousy with bodies and cars; ants in the jungle, doing whatever it is they do. I kept my eyes sharp for zombies. I didn’t see any, just some other joggers on autopilot.

By mile four there was movement everywhere, the illusion was gone. People were filing off the Metro so they could go stand in line at Starbucks before they go sit down to work. I made my best guess that this was Thursday. Cars were yelling at everyone to get out of the way and everyone was yelling at the cars to stop being cars. A bike messenger darted past, no doubt carrying something really important from over there to over there. This all probably qualifies as, “bustling.” Still no zombies.

I looped around the White House and started back home. Running past the guard stations, homeless war protestors and tall black iron fencing, I couldn’t shake the thought from my head, “Is this the safest place in D.C.?” Obama’s got rooftop snipers, secret service members everywhere, dogs, cameras, and that tall black iron fencing. Fencing that would do pretty well against angry mobs – alive or dead. … I have thoughts like this all the time. I’m compelled to constantly evaluate how my surroundings would hurt or help, you know, in case of zombies. It’s completely normal, trust me.

Jogging past the Starbucks, my head jerked, and my Pavlovian instincts took over. In an instant, my brain calculated the expected benefit of finishing my run and compared it to the immediate satisfaction of ingesting legal drugs. Conclusion: It was time for some caffeine. I grabbed the two expertly folded dollar bills from my right sock-side, and went in. I was too sweaty to sit inside, so I sat at one of the tables lining the street. The person before me had considerately left their copy of The Examiner on the table so I grabbed it, hoping they hadn’t done the Sudoku yet. They hadn’t. I went back inside and asked, “Hey, can I borrow a pen for a second?” People are so giving. I sat back down outside and just stared at those little cheeky boxes with their stupid little numbers.

Fuck Sudoku.

Any excuse is a good excuse not to go down that path. Every time I start one, I am consumed until it’s finished. Five to eighteen minutes go by – longer if it’s a Friday – and I feel nothing. When it’s done, I don’t feel accomplished, or proud, or especially smart. I’m just done. I don’t know if it’s just because I was born in the eighties, but when I finish something that complex, I want a freaking hard candy, or a pat on the back – something! I get nothing from them. Best to not even bother.

I closed the paper and turned my attention back to my tall Ethiopian Sidamo. I was drifting off into my coffee. There has to be a word for this feeling; it’s probably in French. That feeling you get about a third of the way through the first cup where every sip is better than the last, and the pleasure and warmth take hold of you, but you don’t have to take a crap yet. Pure bliss.

I sat the cup down and glanced at the main headline. “DEATH BY IPOD: Can’t hear planes, trains, automobiles.” I’d already passively read all the words on the front page without processing the English. This time, the headline stuck out like Marv Albert’s toupee at the beach. I turned to page 5 and started to read. The words floated from the page and lined up in front of me. I felt like John Nash from “A Beautiful Mind,” only I was aware that I may be going crazy. But there it was, plain as day if you just read between the lines:

“A spike in fatal accidents”

“At least three people in the Washington region have died in accidents in the last year, all while wearing headphones.”

 “…warnings about ‘iPod zombies’”

“fatal distraction”

“magnet for criminals … and people wanting to do bad things.”

“You could easily become street pizza.”

 Fatal, iPods, zombies, pizza. Nothing has ever made so much sense in all my life! No wonder my zombie research never turned anything up – there was nothing to uncover, this was all happening out in the open.

I’m going to have to rethink some things.

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