Thursday, July 31, 2014

I walked to work today, and saved a life

I walked to work today. It took me about four times longer than biking or driving*, and I arrived to work a little disheveled, yet I was able to take some time to breathe, see some cool stuff, interact with a few strangers, and even save a life.

Walking to places is not something I normally do; I'm a year-round bicycle commuter. But thanks to heavy rains the last two days, I left my bike at work, so didn't have the option to ride in this morning. Rather than make someone else in my household get up early to drive me in (we're a one-car family), I decided to walk. Well, part of the way at least; for the last leg, I took the fancy new bus**.

I really enjoyed the somewhat unplanned three mile walk. I walked on side streets through old town neighborhoods, so I had a chance to see plenty of lovely gardens and landscaping. I discovered another urban chicken farmer. I found free stuff piled out in some driveways (which I had the self-control not to take).

I (re)discovered that not all sidewalks are created equal. Some are straight and flat, meticulously kept free of weeds and debris, and get you where you're going without hassle; while some are cracked, warped and have weeds and dog poop in unexpected places. (I'm pretty sure that's a metaphor for human experience.) One stretch of sidewalk was surrounded by tall flowering plants on either side, with shade trees overhanging it, making me feel like I walked through a green tunnel, and I could pretend for a moment that I was taking a stroll in Tuscany. I sent silent gratitude to the homeowner/arborist who cultivated it.

On my bike, I often give a nod to people as I pass by, which is more interaction than they get from drivers. As a fellow pedestrian, I actually had the opportunity to size up a person as we approached each other, and determine if more interaction was forthcoming. Joggers with ear buds will take a nod at most; I got several cheerful "good morning"s from people out walking their dog or taking out their trash bins. I spent a pleasant few seconds exchanging a greeting and talk about the weather with an elderly vet taking his three-wheeled bike out for a slow morning ride.

I did say that I saved a life, and that is true. A couple of blocks from my house, a worm was struggling across the sidewalk, another soon-to-be victim of the rain. I stopped to move it to the grass, so it wouldn't die on the sidewalk like so many of its cousins. This is something I would not have had the opportunity to do on a bike, much less a car.

Was it a worthwhile effort? Yes; because sometimes, you're the worm. It may take someone moving almost as slowly as you to recognize your struggle, and to be able to do something about it.

*For me, driving takes just as long as biking, because I'm too cheap to purchase a parking pass, so I have to park off-campus and walk in. The time it takes to find parking and walk in means I don't save any time from biking in.

**It took me about an hour, all told, because I mistimed the bus and had to wait fifteen minutes for it. I had thought that walking partway to the bus would save me some time and energy, but looking at Google Maps, now I don't think so. Walking to and from the bus route took me a bit out of my way, reinforcing my understanding that the local bus system just doesn't work for my needs. Too bad. Next time I walk, I'll try a more efficient route, which should get me here in about 40 minutes, though it takes me through more college rental areas and less old town neighborhoods, the latter of which is part of the appeal of the walk.

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