Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The World Cup and The Dish

The World Cup is allowing me to befriend strangers, and not-so-strangers.

July 09, 2010 - Atteridgeville, South Africa - epa02242447 German national soccer team midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger performs during his team's training session at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville near Pretoria, South Africa, 09 July 2010. Germany will face Uruguay in the FIFA 2010 World Cup third place soccer match on July 10 in Port Elizabeth.

There is a lithe, sinewy woman who I've seen for years on this hilly circuit that I run known by locals as The Dish. I estimate this speed-walker is in her late 60s, based on her complexion and gray hair-- not by her jaunty pace, stretchy pants and form-fitting warm-up jackets. For a while, this fashionista and I would pass by each other at almost the same spot on the most grueling hill several times a week.

Jul 06, 2010 - Durban, South Africa - German soccer team during a training session for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Durban, South Africa.

A good year had gone by before we acknowledged each other. We finally established a convention where we said "hi" to each other and exchanged tepid smiles, but that has been the extent of it. We have never stopped to talk to each other even though there have been plenty of occasions to. We have seen each other after our workouts at Whole Foods and on the street where we park our cars many times. She has a shiny Mercedes S-Class, which is parked in the same spot every time, close to mine. I guessed from her demeanor, accent and discipline that she was German.

But today, as I saw her approaching, this woman who I have never had a conversation with, I found myself yelling, "Go Germany!"

She didn't react for a moment. It occurred to me that she might have no idea what I was talking about. Or maybe she was stunned that I said something other than "good morning" to her.

"Are you watching the games?" I asked between breaths. Suddenly she pumped her fists up in the air. "Yes!" she yelled.

"I'm rooting for them!" I shouted. We passed each other, headed in opposite directions; I kept running, and she kept speed-walking. But our heads held one another's gaze for a long moment. and she was smiling.

It occurred to me a moment later that I actually didn't know if she was German.

Whatever, we have something else in common now besides The Dish, and that is a favorite World Cup team.

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