Five years ago I made a radical decision. I chose to walk or bus to work and everywhere else instead of driving. It wasn’t an easy decision and there are days, especially in winter, where I curse the wind and wail at the pounding rain or drifting snow. The Mr. likes to think of that day five years ago as the day ‘my wife lost her mind ’ and a degree of independence. As with anything there are some major Pros and Cons to my decision. On soap box days, I can argue I am helping the environment; I can certainly say I am fitter and healthier than I have ever been because walking is excellent exercise; better the studies say for the heart, than running. The Cons are equally loud and numerous. It is, if not impossible near unbearable too shop at Costco without your own transportation (and I do love Costco). Friends don’t invite you quite as often or as avidly to get-togethers because you rely on public transport. And then of course the biggest con in some cities: public transportation. For me though the Pros outweigh the Cons. As a writer I look for opportunities not only to see things differently but to experience people and things differently and using public transportation does that. It gets you in there with the ‘public’ and you get to hear what people are thinking about; what they’re reading, watching, listening to…is there any greater gift for a writer?
Walking on the other hand, draws you into the environment. It opens you up to the inventory of things and the movement and motion of the Every Day. In the suburbs I am greeted by birds, pets and people who once I regarded as strangers but now recognize as neighbors. My husband now marvels at how I know so many people. I know the lady at X number on X street likes to go for a run every day at 5pm or the charmingly bewhiskered Mr. X mows the lawn every Wednesday and lords over the rose bushes lining his driveway. Walking wakes you up to the minutiae; the tiniest details in concrete sidewalks, in piercing skyscrapers. It calls you to attention. There are beautiful things in this city. Trees in majestic cloaks and rushing streams and brooks leaping over rocks. There is a boutique selling ‘imported, exotic daywear and accessories’ from Kenya and bakeries (more than one!) and a library in an oak-line avenue. There are crumbs and pickings for the crows that haunt the Starbucks and a hummingbird nest in the branches of a yellow birch. There is a homeless man in an alley in a suit that once was as blue as his eyes.
I would miss all these things and so much more if I sat behind the wheel of a car; if I whizzed past in a hurry. And even if I did not drive by in a hurry, even if I slowed down a notch or two or ten I would not see the slug making its slow and slimy way on the sidewalk.