One of the many things I love about my hometown of Bayport is that it’s flat. And flat is important because I run. I don’t love running, but I do it to control my weight. And the course I’ve run since 1997 is scenic, often parallel to the Great South Bay and always perfectly flat. Now, at age 75, some things annoy me, even anger me, during my runs.
It’s not that I seem to run at the same speed — it takes me much longer to complete my 3.1-mile route, and now I have to walk a portion of it. I sadly realize that those realities come with age. No, it’s other things Long Islanders do that bother me and diminish the experience.
Frequently, I find litter along Gillette Avenue, the road I take down to the bay. Summer is the worst season for this On a warm-weather run a few years ago, I tallied 124 items. In my runs, I see cigarette butts, crushed and intact beer and soda cans, plastic water bottles, paper and foam coffee cups, liquor bottles of all types and sizes, food containers, candy and chips wrappers, as well as socks, sneakers, cotton gloves and even underwear.
More troubling is the vehicular traffic along straight and flat Gillette. I estimate that no more than 20% of the drivers observe the 30 mph speed limit. Some fly by at speeds that seem to exceed 70 and 80 mph. And as for the three stop signs between Montauk Highway and Middle Road, only a few drivers actually fully stop. Most slow down and roll through, and others ignore them.
I sometimes pick up litter — especially cans and bottles that I add to my recyclables. As a son of Depression-era parents, I wouldn’t run by a nickel. And I find myself screaming, “Slow down, idiot!” or “30 miles an hour, jerk!” as drivers whiz by and, “Full stop, buddy!” at drivers rolling through the stop signs. These, I know, are pretty ineffective. I can never pick up enough litter to make a difference, it’s no fun to run with it, and most air-conditioned vehicles have rolled-up windows. In some cases, I fear I have turned into the “Get off my lawn, kids!” old man.
I consider calling Islip about the litter along the town-owned road, but I realize there are less affluent parts of Islip that need more care than Bayport. I could call Suffolk’s Fifth Precinct about the speeding and stop sign violations, but likewise, the police have more serious priorities. I could find other routes to run. The high school track has neither litter, traffic or scenery. Or, I suppose, I could just gain weight.
Reader Jim Morgo lives in Bayport.