Today I was walking from Johnson Hall to Smith Hall on campus, which probably doesn’t mean much to you if you’re not familiar with Kent State University, and if you are, you’re probably thinking, “Oh great, so you were walking down the Esplanade, what’s the big deal.” Well, I was walking from Johnson Hall to Smith Hall, which may be a seven-minute walk; I’ve never timed it or anything, and I’m not the aficionado on estimating walk durations, but seven minutes sounds right if you’re strolling along.
So I’m walking along, watching everyone walking by me. I like watching people walk by me, especially if I’ve got my sunglasses on so I can see where I’m walking without squinting until it makes me insane, and I sort of judge them. Not in any ridiculous way, but I give reviews on people in my head on how they look. You’re probably thinking I sound like a righteous jerk, but you should know that by law I never give anyone a negative review, all right? Now that you can calm down, let me explain. I just sort of watch the people walk by, and in the five seconds they’re in my life, I check out what they’re wearing and how they’ve done their hair and I come up with one-word responses, so my thoughts are just a string of, “Nice,” “Cute,” “Yes,” “Sharp,” “NICE,” “Wow,” “Good job,” “Cute.”
Anyway I like checking people out because I’m curious. I don’t know, I’m curious about how they dress for the weather or how they pair their clothes or how they layer jewelry. You can learn a thing or two from people, if you pay attention.
So I’m walking from Johnson Hall to Smith Hall. By this point you may have opened a damn map on Google of the crummy Kent State campus so you can see the heck what I keep going on about. It’s nothing impressive or anything, but just imagine me walking down a brick sidewalk that runs through campus at 10:30 in the morning with two currents of students walking in different directions.
And as I’m going along, I notice the guy who’s walking in front of me just about as I get to the MACC. Oh great, another building, right? The MACC’s about halfway between the two halls I keep going on about, so there’s your point of reference. Go back to the stinkin’ map and check it out, I’ll wait.
Now there’s this guy walking in front of me and the first thing I notice is that he’s swanky as hell. That’s the first word that came to mind: swanky. I thought, “Hey, that’s a word we don’t use enough of. Swanky. We should all use the word swanky at some point today.” My next thought was that it was a real honor to be walking behind him and I was hoping some of his swankiness might rub off on me. I’m not sure if swankiness is something you can catch but I’m sure as hell receptive to it.
Well what’s so swanky about this character? you’re probably thinking. Hold the hell up, chump, I’m getting there. Right now, actually, so don’t get all impatient like on me. Here we go.
First of all, I could tell exactly who this guy was by his walk. It was like he was jiving along or something like a real cool cat. He sort of leaned back as he strutted along, and his shoulders and arms only swayed the slightest bit, but not in a stiff way, like a real smooth way, fluid. And once you saw how he walked, everything else about him made sense.
So this guy I guess was maybe 70 years old, and that’s a real guess on my part because not only am I not the chief consultant on estimating durations of time, but I’m also not an authority on supposing ages of people. As far as I can tell, everyone between fifty and eighty are the same age. So we’re just gonna figure he’s 70 because that sounds clean and sensible and all.
This older number is walking along with a real swagger. And everything else about him just makes sense. He’s a thin card, real fit and in good shape seemingly. Maybe not fit, I don’t know if he exercises at all beyond his slick walking style, but thin. Nothing bulgy about him. He’s sliding along and his black dress shoes are clicking to the rhythm of his groovy walk. The clicking is audible in a noticeable way but not in an annoying way. He seemed like he should play the Saxophone or something.
Of course he was wearing black slacks, and his shirt– boy! His shirt was groovy as groovy gets. Well, it made sense, in any case. It was a collared, button-up tee-shirt with this wild pattern, browns and brown-greens and maybe yellow and white in it, this wavy vertical pattern, and the collar was black. That was the sharpest part: the collar was black. If this fellow is named anything other than Jerry I think I’d throw a fit. A good fit, for sure.
You already know the rest. He had these blackest black shades on, and a good hearty white mustache. Jerry wore this white, flat-brimmed hat, sort of a canvas-y material but a little classier. My favorite part of his whole get-up was his gold watch, which looked pretty worn so it was almost silver in some patches but you could still tell it was a gold watch. That was my favorite part. That gold watch is his damn staple. You don’t know Jerry if you don’t know his worn gold watch.
Once we got around to the library part, we split ways at the sidewalk. We were both headed towards the science plaza, but different angles. I was sad to see him go. I kept watching him all the same though, as much as I could without running into people or breaking my damn neck. I couldn’t figure what the hell he was doing walking through campus, heading to the science plaza. Well, he seemed to know just where he was at with a walk that suave! I’m telling you, with a walk like that, you’d never seem like an outsider.
I don’t know, I thought about Jerry all day. When I got to my next class, I jotted notes about him. Notes! As if I could forget that walk. That’s a walk that’ll stick with me for ages. I bet he worked hard for it. I bet he practiced as a teenager and people have been envious of him for decades. I bet it’s his most prized attribute, right after his worn gold watch. I bet the watch doesn’t even have batteries anymore. You can kind of tell that about someone. Jerry was a real neat guy, but he was the sort to have a cloth-brimmed hat and a worn gold watch without batteries. I can just tell those things about a person. Prove me wrong, I dare you. Go call up ol’ Jerry and ask him what time it is.
I suppose he was visiting an old friend who teaches at Kent State. I bet he went to Kent, way back before all the fancy new Centennial dorms and the flashy math and science buildings. He and his professor buddy went to Kent together and Jerry came back to have lunch with his old colleague. I bet Jerry was in a jazz band. He probably still plays gigs around where he lives, and drinks something sophisticated like whiskey neat but never gets drunk anymore, knows how to stop early. Scratch that, I bet it’s whiskey on the rocks. I just realized it’s whiskey on the rocks.
Anyway I’m gonna keep a sharp eye out for Jerry next time I’m walking from Johnson Hall to Smith Hall. Jerry’s the kind of guy you’ll only see once at a place like Kent State, but I’ll look out regardless. I’m gonna practice my walk. I could learn a thing or two from Jerry’s walk. Actually, a whole lot.