Friday, December 24, 2010

Reindeer Games

Sometimes I create a theme for my runs, kind of like a scavenger hunt.  Maybe I count squirrels, red trucks, barking dogs, or other runners.  Today, in the spirit of Christmas, I chose to make it a holiday theme.  For this run, I decided to count the number of Christmas wreaths I saw on houses throughout my 6 mile run. 
                The problem with these games is that sometimes they can become a bit complicated.  Last year I lived on the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border.  One day on a four mile run – which crossed evenly between both states – I thought it would be fun to count the number of MA versus RI license plates.  It was fun at first, but then it became complicated when I crossed into the other state and thought maybe I should not only count if it was MA or RI, but also if it was in the other state.  So then I really needed four categories: MA plate in MA, RI plate in MA, RI plate in RI, MA plate in RI.  Then I further complicated it by counting the number of plates other than MA or RI, which I also sub-categorized depending on which state I spotted the out of state plate.  Then there was confusion when there were vehicles coming in both directions, and figuring out what to do when an oncoming car didn’t have a license plate on the front of the car.  I nearly killed myself spinning mid-stride to see the car’s plate after it passed me.  This simple game became quite complicated and after about mile 3 I gave up.
                Today’s game seemed simple enough, right?  I thought so, until the game started. Turns out, counting wreaths can become quite complicated.  A mile into my run, I realized this was going to be a problem, and like any good project manager and strong believer of structure, I created ground rules.  The following is a list of rules for my wreath counting game:
1.       A wreath can be any size.  Larger wreaths do not get extra points
2.       All wreaths on the house are counted separately.
3.       Only wreaths are counted.  Not swags, not globes. A wreath is defined (in my crazy little one-person world) as being:
a.       Circular in nature
b.      Holiday themed (pine branches are optimal, vines are ok if garnished with a holiday bow or other Christmas-type decorations)
4.       Wreaths must be reasonably attached to a building, such as:
a.       House
b.      Barn
c.       Garage
d.      Fence adjacent to the house
e.      Gazebo (I struggled with this one)
5.       Wreaths attached to free-standing hangers in the front yard are disqualified
6.       Only residential wreaths are covered; not business wreaths
Now that the ground rules were established, the games could begin.  (I was a real hoot as a child, can't you tell?)  One interesting observation I made was that wreath decorating occurs in clusters, kind of like chicken pox.  If one house on the street has a wreath, everyone has one.  In some neighborhoods, one wreath isn’t enough.  On one house I counted half a dozen wreaths.  The next house, not to be outdone, donned no fewer than sixteen wreaths.  Who knew the number of wreaths could be such a status symbol?  On the flip side, I ran through another neighborhood where not one single house was decorated with a wreath.  I guess none of them had caught the bug. 
Wreath-counting sounds like a pretty low-intensity sport, right?  Think again.  Today was a busy day, being the day before Christmas.  I had a morning full of errands, including shopping, wrapping, and cooking.  The weather was a beautiful, sunny 36 degrees and I longed for a run.  With the ham safely tucked in the oven at 2:30pm, I finally got my chance.  I jumped into my running gear and headed out for my usual 6 mile run. I’m not used to running this time of day, since I usually either run early in the morning or on my lunch break.  This time of year, with the days being so short, 2:30pm means sun is getting low in the sky.  As I ran down the streets of Mendon in search of Christmas wreaths, the sun was casting long, steep shadows.  The sun, in fact, became a serious challenge.  In order to see any of the houses to the west of me, I had to slow down and put my hand above my eyes like a makeshift visor and scour their property for wreaths.  It occurred to me after some time that I may look a little odd and possibly even villainous; a dangerous thief posing as a runner but secretly mapping out my next target.  After that realization, I tried my best to count wreaths discreetly while still maintaining the integrity of the game.  The reality is though; there are some I may have missed due to intense solar glare.  I hope the Census Bureau doesn’t check my figures.
There were also several times throughout my run that I was so busy counting wreaths that by the time I looked ahead, I found myself near the middle of the road.  Drivers seemed to be accommodating though; I’d like to think they were in the “spirit of giving”.  Maybe it was just me, but everyone seemed a little happier today.  Drivers didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t using the snowy sidewalks.  Brown Dog was bouncing happily around his front yard, munching on snow balls.  Pedlar and Skip were sunbathing in a warm corner of their paddock.  And for the record, there were 171 wreaths counted on my 6 mile route, with a 95% accuracy rate.  Merry Christmas! J

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