Monday, August 06, 2007

Out For a Walk...

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," 1841

The other day while walking to the Post Office I was reminded of a time when I was walking to work a few months back. See, both the Post Office and my former place of employment are under a mile away, so it's almost embarrassing to drive to them. (I will admit to driving to work more than I should have but that was just a matter of wanting to sleep in).

So, there were 2 ways I could walk to work, one being more "town" the other being more residential, I always went the residential way because there are nice sidewalks and it seemed faster. Anyway, I was walking to work one beautiful, crisp spring morning; I had my headphones on, my sunglasses on, and I was walking with that little bounce that says "today will be a wonderful day." A car drove past me and I barely noticed. Then, that same car drove past again, this time stopping in the middle of the street. I slightly recognized the man as someone who would come into the place I worked. He rolled his window down and said something to me. "What?" I said as I lifted my headphones up in the air (yes, I still use headphones rather than ear buds, so what?!). "Don't you work over at what's it called?" he asked again. "Oh, yeah," I was a little confused at this point.

"Do you want a ride?" he asked. Wow! How nice, he offered me a lift to work. I kindly turned him down, but not without profusely thanking him for the offer. I thought it was so kind of him to drive by twice and then offer a ride, (because I'd had co-workers who would drive past me in the morning and not so much as honk or wave).

But, this did get me thinking....Here I was, headphones on, walking with a purpose down the sidewalk of a residential area of suburban DC/Baltimore, did I look like a needed a ride? I think the assumption in some American suburbs is that if you are walking someplace (not just strolling or "out for a walk") it is because you have to. Because you don't have a car or your car is broken (and, gasp, god forbid you don't have a car!). This is really interesting to me; the assumption that I was walking not because I wanted to but because I had to.

So, I’m just throwing that out there….this reliance on cars. I know this isn’t anything new; I’m not the first to say this. I just wanted to share my little story, a story that actually makes me want to walk more often to more places. (I spoke with my neighbor 2 weeks ago as she had just gotten home from a 8 mile round trip walk to Best Buy, and yes, she has a car, she just wanted to get some exercise. I was impressed). Maybe the man who offered me a ride was just being friendly or maybe, it’s becoming more and more like someone once said, “A pedestrian is someone who thought there were a couple of gallons left in the tank.”

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.
Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk. ~Raymond Inmon