So yesterday morning I got up for my normal 5:30 AM shuffle over to Portsmouth and back to Kittery. The Piscataqua river is about 1.5 miles from my house and there are actually two bridges that you go over because Badger's Island is in the middle of the river. So you go over a normal bridge, then go past Hebert Brothers Seafood and Badger's Island Pizza before you go over the Memorial Bridge, which is the beat up old metal bridge that goes up every half hour to let boats and ships through. There is lots of discussion about whether to replace the bridge, restore it, big political topic around town lately, but that's another story.
So I know most of the other runners and walkers who are out at this time of day. Most of them I don't know personally, but they are a familiar part of the day. Well yesterday morning as I'm starting onto the first bridge I hear a funny noise behind me and turned to see a guy skating up and past me on roller blades. Kind of odd for this time of day and not one of the "regulars", but whatever. He was wearing a backpack and talking on his cell phone, which was also kind of odd. So he gets up ahead of me a little big and pulls off the road and skates over to the big menu board at Hebert Bros. to check it out. Again, kind of odd behavior for 5:30 AM, but whatever, I'm hardly one to set international standards for normal and odd behavior. I've been towed with a water ski rope on a sled behind a 1986 Honda Civic at 50 miles per hour (verified by the sober driver) in a blizzard in Maine, which some people might consider odd.
Anyway, after I jog past him he skates back out into the road (I'm now on the sidewalk getting ready to run across the metal grate bridge and using the wooden sidewalk) and up alongside me, still on his cell phone. I said something to him, like "mornin'" in my best hick voice and he says, "Hey, looks like I skate faster than you run." to which I said, "Yeah, you'd smoke me." I realize that isn't the most impressive retort, but I think I was in the middle of a thought about a new phallic nickname and he interrupted me. But now that he got my attention I let "Shamu" slip from my mind and said to myself, "Oh, what the heck!" and picked up the pace. I caught him right before the bridge starts and as I went by I said to him, "UH-OH!" in a playful tone, indicating that he was now losing the race. He's still on his phone, mind you. I had a head start so I passed him easily but I immediately heard his cadence pick up so I knew he took the bait and I heard him say into his cell phone, "I'm racing a runner!" So I'm on the sidewalk and he's gaining on me from the middle of the road (there is hardly any traffic at this time of day) and all of a sudden the poor bastard gets to where the pavement turns to metal grate and he takes a massive frigging dixie right onto his face. I was still ahead of him so I didn't see it, but I sure heard it. His body nailed the metal grate, then I heard a loud, "UURROOGGHHH!!!" and about a second later he tells whoever is on the other end of his phone that he just fell real bad. I actually felt pretty bad so I eased up and stopped to lean out past the green metal columns to peek at him out in the road about 100 feet back. By that time he was standing back up and trying to lift one leg to climb out of the road and onto the sidewalk where I was. I thought about going back and checking on him, but I heard him start to skate slowly again and figured he was still on his phone so he must have survived. I still feel kind of bad about it, but it was pretty funny.