When I was a northerner, I took casual note of the fact that southerners move more slowly than regular people. I chalked it up to geographical inferiority and paid little mind to it. That changed in September 2008 when, quite unexpectedly, I landed here in Florida, apparently for good. For the benefit of northerners who may read this, September in Florida is still mid-summer. By then the dog days may have run through Great Danes and poodles, diminishing to Yorkies and Chihuahuas, but dog days they remain. It's damned hot.
Erik, my elder offspring, helped me unload the moving van. Exercising diplomacy inherited from his mother's side of the family, he pointed out, "Gee, Dad, you're sweating like a boar-pig in a sauna. I think you're starting to ferment." I oinked disgruntledly and trotted into the house with another box of crap I should have sold before leaving Connecticut.
"Besides," he said, "you're doing it wrong."
"Doing what wrong, son of mine?"
"Walking. You're walking wrong."
"I'm walking like I always walk, my child. What's wrong with that?"
"You can't walk like that when it's hot like this or you'll stink like hell."
Unaccustomed as I am to having offspring who know more than I do, I considered changing the subject. But at some time in the not-too-distant past, Erik had enjoyed a year-long sojourn in Iraq helping Uncle Sam fight the war that might be a quagmire. It is hot in Iraq. It is hot in Florida. Perhaps the kid was onto something. "So, Mr. Desert Fox, how do you suggest I walk?" And Erik proceeded to demonstrate the desert one-step.
"Walking where it's hot is a maneuver in four parts," he said. "One, increase pressure on the ground with your left foot. Two, lift your right foot vertically. Three, swing your right leg forward. Four, place your right foot gently on the ground. Then repeat with the other foot."
I looked at him with renewed suspicion that the apple indeed had fallen too far from the tree. "That's called 'walking,' I think."
"Nope." he said, "Walking is when you do all those things quickly without thinking about them. When it's hot, you need to think about each part of the exercise, so you do it much more slowly and deliberately. Watch again." He began to ambulate on a four-count beat, as if to a silent dirge. He was not just demonstrating in slow motion; this was live-action slo-mo. Bedouins and camels cross deserts with this measured gait, so I suppose the same southern saunter can get me across the street or around the block - in time. I tried it. Push, lift, swing, plant, repeat.
It is a new and strange skill, this Tampa toddle, this Dixie drift, this Florida footsie. I count myself an amateur ambler, with miles of moseying to go before I master the meandering art. But every so often while strolling the sugary sands, I stop, sniff and smile. Gosh, I walked all this way and I don't stink like a boar-pig.