Culture Clash: Runner vs. Redneck

by Scott Ludwig

In the three-year history of the Snickers Marathon Energy Bar Marathon (held on the first Saturday of March in Albany, Georgia) I’ve become one of its biggest fans and most ardent supporters. The race is well-organized and ‘worth the price of admission.’ The course is scenic and conducive to a good time. The support offered by the corps of volunteers is amazing. And the good citizens of Albany band together and come out race morning to cheer on the runners all throughout the 26.2 miles of the course. They’re a terrific bunch of people.

With the exception of two of them. Perhaps three.

This year I ran a Boston-qualifying marathon in Albany for the first in over three years. Considering the health issues I’ve been battling over this span of time I was very satisfied with my performance (that is, if a synonym for ‘satisfied’ is ‘good-lord-am-I-on-the- verge-of-a-comeback?’). My wife Cindy had one of her better half-marathons, and the members of the Darkside Running Club who participated all had a positive experience in Albany as well. It was, quite honestly, a most excellent springtime morning in south Georgia. All of us hung around the finish line for 90 minutes…maybe more soaking in the sunshine and the southern hospitality. By the time we finally returned to the parking lot to leave, most of the runners had already left. Cindy and I got to our Porsche Cayenne (it’s a company car, and I only mention it as it is an integral part of this story), and she got in the front passenger seat while I opened the hatch in the back. I took of my singlet and put on my Darkside polo shirt; then with the shirttail pulled down to my knees I slipped off my wet running shorts and quickly pulled on a pair of dry cargo shorts—a process I’ve done literally a thousand times during my running lifetime.

I closed the hatch and got in the drivers seat and started the engine. About this time a white sedan pulled directly behind me, preventing me from backing up to leave. (There was a large curb directly in front of me. Beyond the curb? A seldom used side street and a cemetery). I politely blew the horn, open the door and looked back at the sedan.

I then heard a loud, gruff voice in a deep south-Georgia drawl say ‘Ohhhhh no; you’re not going anywhere.’

Then he appeared. Six-foot four, easily three hundred pounds and sporting a 48 inch waist wearing the butt-ugliest Georgia Bulldog belt you could ever imagine. Did I mention the lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth? Well, he had a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Constantly. When he got to the end of one, he lit another. And another. What was he doing in an area that was cordoned off for runners, you may be asking. Exactly my point; what the hell was he doing there?!?

He then told me that he ‘knew the Chief of PO-lice’ and that he had already called the police and reported me and that a unit would be arriving any minute to handle the situation. The man then attacked me with a verbal barrage of insults I haven’t heard since my gym teacher in junior high took exception to my inability to climb the knotted rope. Among the highlights:

• You’re not going to come to my town and take off your clothes and show everyone everything you got. (Please excuse the grammatically incorrect sentences; just know I call ‘em as I see ‘em.)

• My wife and kid are in the car and they saw everything you got, and so did I. (At this point I tried to add levity to the situation by saying ‘well you shouldn’t have been looking,’ but (a) this guy in no way understood the meaning of ‘sarcasm’ or, for that matter any other word with more than two syllables and (b) this fired him up even more than he already was. Whoops. At this point he said now I’m REALLY going to press charges, but in all honesty his mind was already made up: I was a common criminal and deserved to be behind bars.)

• I don’t want to walk down a street and see some guy w___in’ his _____ like some PRE-vert. (Where did this come from?)

• Would you want your children to be molested? My son was molested, and it wasn’t pretty! (If you know me well enough you know exactly what I wanted to say after this one.)

There were more, but these were probably what I would consider to be the top four. Then his ‘wife’ (who, once I saw their drivers’ licenses realized they (a) had different last names and (b) lived in two different places) added to the ‘conversation’ by basically repeating everything her ‘husband’ had said up until this point. She had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth as well.

I tried to explain that all I was doing was change out of my wet shorts after running a marathon. He: ‘I work construction and I have wet underwear all the time, and I don’t go around nekkid.’ Her: ‘We saw your manhood.’ He: ‘My son saw EVERYTHING.’ Her: ‘We saw your manhood.’ Oddly enough, the son—who had to be about 15, sat silently in the back seat playing his banjo (OK, so I made that last part up).

Then a county sheriff showed up and asked Mr. Bumpkin what was the problem. Then she asked me my side of the story. She rolled her eyes (in my favor), but said since a citizen of Al-ben-nee had filed a report it had to be investigated. By the city; not by her.

So she radioed for a police officer from the City of Albany. Another unit showed up and the officer went through the exact same routine; in fact the rolling of the eyes was almost identical as well. Then he radioed for another unit (I’m not sure why) and two more units showed up. Two more police officers went through the same routine. Four more rolling eyes. Then they agreed that ‘the Lieutenant’ had to make the call, so they radioed for him.

Then the Lieutenant showed up, so now there were five law enforcement officers and five law enforcement vehicles ‘handling the disturbance.’ I figured what the hell; they had nothing better to do. After all, there wasn’t much going on in Albany this particular weekend in March. Just a WWE wrestling show Friday night, a Steve Harvey show Saturday night (these two events were both held in the building whose parking lot we were in for the race), the marathon, a Mardi Gras festival literally less than half a mile away, a funeral (did I mention police officer #3 was called away from a funeral procession to report to the scene of the crime?) and to make matters worse, the first nice weekend weather in several months. It was the perfect storm of bad timing for this to happen, as far as the law enforcement officials were concerned.

Speaking of ‘the perfect storm…’

Mr. Bumpkin (a) had a ginormous gut and was obviously out of shape, (b) was driving an old, dirty white sedan and (c) was apparently a University of Georgia fan. Since Mr. Bumpkin (a) saw I was in fairly decent physical shape, (b) saw I was driving a brand new Porsche (I told you this fact was an integral part of the story) and (c) when he parked his car behind my vehicle he saw my ‘Florida Alumni’ license plate frame, the groundwork was set for the fireworks that would ensue. In all honestly, the sun was shining so brightly that I wanted to put on a baseball hat, but the only one I had was my University of Florida hat and seeing as our football team beat Georgia 49-10 and then went on to win the National Championship two months ago, I figured it I put on my hat he would think I was taunting him (‘Now I’m really, REALLY going to press charges!’).

After what seemed like a lifetime (seeing as how I thought I might up behind bars in this south Georgia town for being a PRE-vert and all), the Lieutenant approached me and said that since Mr. Bumpkin was a citizen they had to take his complaint. He then asked if I would mind hanging around until after he got statements from the Bumpkin family and sent them on their way, at which time I could leave quietly. I agreed, but not before asking if Mr. Bumpkin broke the law by illegally detaining me by parking his car behind mine. Again the eyeroll…but I assured him I had no intention of being a nuisance, and that I was just curious. The Lieutenant nodded, indicating that a law had been broken and then breathed a sigh of relief seeing as how I was not going to file a counter ‘citizen’s arrest.’

As the Lieutenant was taking their statements (lord, did they write slow!) two of the officers said the Albany police were very familiar with the Bumpkin family as they were notorious for this type of behavior. That explained why Mr. Bumpkin ‘knew’ the Chief of Police. That explained the numerous eyerolls I had observed over the last 90 minutes. That explained why Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin leaned up against their car smoking their cigarettes and looking as if they were savoring the moment. It’s because they were! This was their family time…their entertainment…this is what they live for!

Sick bastards.

Once the Lieutenant finished with their statements, it was several more minutes before the Bumpkins actually drove away. Cindy told me later than they were unhappy with the way the matter was handled, and threatened to ‘call the D.A. and the newspapers’ on Monday morning to report what had transpired (they didn’t use the word ‘transpired,’ but you knew that, right?). They added that they ‘expected more from Albany’s finest.’

The last order of business was for me to write a statement. It was short and to the point (pretty much what Mrs. Bumpkin had to say about my ‘manhood’). I caught a glimpse of the statements written by the Bumpkins, which were also short (I didn’t notice any words with more than two syllables) and to the point.

After I finished writing, the Lieutenant apologized for everything and appreciated me waiting around until the rednecks-from-hell had left. He stated that they were not representative of the people of Albany and hoped that Cindy and I would be back next year.

Now that I know it’s not a federal offense to change out of my wet shorts after a marathon, we will be.

Except next year we’ll stay in the race hotel…50 yards from the finish line. Next year I’ll change in my room.

With the drapes wide open. After all, I’m a runner.