Our Covid Park Side Game
by Cynthia Adams
In recent months, the usually subdued Latham Park isn’t.
Turns out, one of the positives of a state- and city-wide lock down is seeing the park brimming with Frisbee tossing fans, picnicking families, children and teens.
Latham is among the city’s first parks; it is the namesake of J.E. Latham and only exists because the land was considered too wet to build when he donated it to the City.
But Latham’s wetlands do make for an excellent park, one which is interconnected via the Greenway with Greensboro’s other parks.
It is, however, deceptively dry much of the time. But Buffalo Creek bisects Latham Park; during heavy rains it swells beyond the banks and when rains are extreme, it approximates a river.
As the rain gauge fills, even the tennis courts adjacent to the creek disappear beneath the floodwater. Somehow, trucks jacked up on tractor tires soon make their appearance as if on cue, the drivers plowing through the rising waters that soon begin to rage. Then local TV trucks with antennae mounted on their rooftop follow, appearing along the creek as predictably as the police barricades blocking traffic onto Cridland and Latham Roads.
When the flood footage, almost always featuring park benches and exercise equipment burbling below water makes the evening news, kind friends call to ask if we are safe and dry at our park side home.
And so, our life is attuned to the ebb and swell of nature. But now, Latham (which has flooded several times during May with 9.5 inches of rain and counting) is experiencing a different sort of flood—bipeds.
Humans seeking respite from their four walls.
Our park has been transformed in a dramatic way. The paths are overrun with walkers, runners, cyclists and sun-seeking citizens.
And chance encounters with new characters like one we call “Beep Beep.”
I don’t actually know Beep’s real name. This I do know: He’s a social extrovert astride a road bike who favors cotton t-shirts and shorts; one with a zeal for cycling. Beep is so named because he announces himself on the park path (marked at different points with signs that say, “Give a yell or ring a bell!”) –signs which he takes seriously.
He hollers out, “Beep beep!” at the top of his lungs as he makes his way through the park.
The affable cyclist whizzes by, a Road Runner on two wheels, with a two-syllable anthem. (Was Road Runner the reference, we wondered?)
At first, we startled at his approach while walking our dogs—one is a still-skittish rescue who jumps at a falling leaf. We took to standing back in wonder as he Paul Revered his way along the concrete pathway, knees pumping like pistons.
We would pull the two dogs back and respectfully watch his energetic and vocal passing.
“Beep beep!” he would greet amiably without slowing.
At first merely observing this, and then over days anticipating it, my husband returned the greeting one afternoon as Beep appeared on the horizon.
“Beep beep!” my husband replied in friendly salute.
The cyclist looked surprised, but wheeled away in silence. Only after he was well beyond us did he resume his usual shout out. His was not, we learned, a call and response effort.
The next afternoon, noting the anticipated hour, Beep and his bike appeared on the dot, weaving through walkers, wheels flashing. Again, my husband attempted a friendly exchange, shouting at his approach: “Hey, beep beep!” He waved for good measure.
Beep’s head snapped towards him. He stared momentarily before shouting, “Airborne!”
“Huh!” my husband said, staring at his retreating figure. Sure enough, Beep was wearing an Airborne t-shirt.
Thereon, Beep continued his ride but now hollered at intervals, “Airborne!” We stood and watched, momentarily speechless.
“Well,” my husband muttered to the ground. Intrigued yet deflated by Beep’s reaction, we continued our walk. What did this mean?
On the third day that week, I glimpsed Beep on the horizon and began waving enthusiastically as if we were long lost friends at airport baggage. I couldn’t help myself.
“Hey! Beep beep!”
Beep whizzed past, looking through me as I waved. I dropped my arm sheepishly. Only when safely beyond us he shouted his new anthem, “Airborne!”
This all seems freighted with meaning. But what?
Perhaps we’re too needy; with no entertaining, no happy hours with pals, no friends joining along on park jaunts, we had jumped at a chance connection with a stranger in the park.
Perhaps we’ve been socially distancing way too long.
If you’re reading this Beep Beep, please let us know.