Dec 31 2008

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A Pedestrian at Heart

Posted at 9:14 am under Blog Post

All cranked up on sugar and caffeine, I cruised down the highway at 75 miles an hour and it seemed perfectly normal to me.  I followed a bare-pavement highway all the way through the snow-covered mountains of New York and Pennsylvania, finally arriving in Ohio a day and a half after leaving Vermont.  After a few days with the folks, then I did it all in reverse.  Gas was cheap – less than half of what it cost last summer – still I felt a little guilty about taking the trip.  The money I spent along the way to buy foreign oil was only making my home country poorer, not to mention the consequences of my car’s CO2 output.  But this is America and nothing is more American than motoring down an open road.

I enjoyed the ride out but not the ride back home.  Halfway through New York on the return journey, I felt cooped up, so I stopped at a roadside rest and walked half a mile to nowhere.  Sitting behind the steering wheel for a day and a half was the worst of it.  I am used to moving about, even on days when I don’t go for a hike in the woods.  I asked my brother, who drives a truck for a living, how he copes with this.  He told me that you get used to it.  I don’t think I ever would.  I like to stretch my legs too much.

Out on the highway, everyone is in a hurry.  Some people talk on phones while they drive; others listen to hard-driving music as I do.  Still others occupy themselves with talk radio or sports broadcasts.  I suspect that some long-distance truckers toy with other motorists just to relieve the boredom.  Nearly everyone drives too fast, too close to the vehicle in front of them, and with little regard for the weather.  Ego is involved, no doubt.  And every once in a while, we all pass a car or truck wrecked along the side of the road.  But that only happens to other drivers, of course.

Where are we going in such a hurry?  To our graves, ultimately.  Meanwhile the sun rises over the snowy, forested hills and we admire it at our own peril.  After all, the endless flow of traffic does not brake for beauty.

Yesterday, my first day back home, I went for a long walk along the Rail Trail with my dog.  She didn’t get out much while I was gone so she was happy just to sniff around and run.  I felt the same way despite the steady blast of arctic air freezing my face.  The sun rose high into a cloudless sky.  I kicked up powdery snow with each step.  I walked farther than I thought I would, just to walk.  Then it occurred to me:  I may live in an automotive society, but I’m a pedestrian at heart.  I’d choose the most mundane walk over a rock-and-roll ride every time.  Does that make me Thoreauvian?

One response so far

One Response to “A Pedestrian at Heart”

  1. Deedee Burnsideon 01 Jan 2009 at 2:36 pm 1

    Of course you are Thoreauvian!!

    Happy New Year!