There are a lot of things to be tired about in 2018—really, take your pick. But it’s possible that the most exhausting thing to surface in the frothing tide of tedium that is social media has made its way to Twitter in an obvious challenge to all of us to log off forever. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you an urban barefoot runner lodging apparent complaints about tree litter to test the limits of your patience.
This saga begins in a Twitter thread posted Tuesday by Minneapolis-based designer, photographer, and social media manager Alex Conover, who shared a screengrab of what he described as a post in a Facebook group called “I Love NE Minneapolis” that was “getting absolutely destroyed.” (Gizmodo found one such group does exist but is private and screened.) An image attached to the post showed a sidewalk littered with acorns, a phenomenon that appears to be seeing a spike in Minneapolis this year as the result of masting oak trees. One member of the group, however, appeared to interpret the tree litter as some kind of personal affront to the area’s community of barefoot runners.
“Peace and Love” seems like a hell of way to wrap up a post threatening your neighbors, but this bizarre story doesn’t end there (of course). According to Conover, the user—who has since been identified as Eric Curtis and who also counts appears to count “serious unicycling” among his hobbies—shared a screengrab of a form for a formal complaint to the goddamn city against the entire group for “cyber-bullying” as well as for “poorly maintained sidewalks littered with acorns.”
If this wild ride of a story all sounds too dumb to be true, who knows, maybe it is. (Update: It is.) Gizmodo reached out to both Curtis and Conover, both of whom said the original post has since been deleted. (Curtis told Gizmodo it was the group’s admins who deleted the post without notifying him after “some threats were made” in the comments.) While many commenters in the group appear incredulous about the veracity of Curtis’ claims and hobbies, screenshots shared with Gizmodo of comments Curtis has posted to the group appear to indicate that this may be legit. (Update: Again, it’s not.) Conover said that after the post went viral, members of the group connected the name to a previous post inquiring about “competitive unicycling clubs” for “people serious about the sport/lifestyle.”
For his part, Curtis told Gizmodo by email that he doesn’t agree with critics who might claim his original post came off as rude. He added:
I asked people nicely if they would sweep off their sidewalks and instead of a simple “no” I was ridiculed and mocked. I was called a “nancy” and a “wackadoodle” and things I won’t even repeat because they are too graphic. I think that the response to my post was FAR more rude than anything I said. And if people would have spent half the effort they spent attacking me on sweeping off their sidewalks then this would never have been such an issue in the first place.
Speaking with the Twin Cities alt-weekly City Paper in an interview published Wednesday, Curtis told the paper he feels he’s been “targeted” since the post went viral. He told Gizmodo:
I’d just like to say that barefoot runners and unicyclists are people too. And I hope now people realize that we face a lot of discrimination. However, I am not going to let that stop me. I am going to keep pedaling and I am going to keep running barefoot no matter what.
Reminder: Please consider never posting to Facebook. Never post anywhere. Better yet, just go shoe shopping.
Updated 10/10/18, 5:30 pm ET: Added comment from Alex Conover and Eric Curtis.
Update 10/11/18, 1am ET: Curtis finally admitted to BuzzFeed News that this whole thing was just a ploy to troll his neighbors. Thank god.