Walking Home in a Car-World

I love where I live except that I need a car. Public transportation stinks. There are buses but everything is spread out and they run too infrequently to be practical. While this is technically a ‘city’, like most places outside of a major metropolis in the United States, the culture is suburban-car-centric. Public transportation is given short shrift.

I confess, I have never boarded a bus here in Norwalk. I don’t know the routes or the cost. Neither does my 17 year old daughter – which is really crazy to me because growing up in NYC, I was taking 2 city buses to school by the time I was 8 years old.  Molly expects rides and dismisses walking as a way to get someplace.

When I walk now, I do so with intent. I take my dog out or go with my friend for exercise. I don’t walk like I did when I lived in what I still call ‘the city’ – New York – to get where I’m going. When I lived on the upper West Side I avoided buses and subways – eschewing crowds and the expense, but mostly because walking is a pleasure and the city is so walk-able.

I walk when I travel. Behind the wheel of a car, or even as a passenger, it is impossible to really see the world.  Everything is fleeting, without smells, without a sense of the air, the up-close color of  leaves, the bark on a tree, the color of a house, the flowers, the smell of cooking … the poetry and essence of a place.

This morning, I dropped my car off to be serviced and then walked the 2 miles or so home. I walked where I always drive and saw only 2 other pedestrians in my jaunt. Actually, they were not walking — they were waiting for a bus. There are no shelters on this stretch of the Post Road. Bus riders must stand by the road in the now-grassy but soon-to-be icy patch, breathing passing fumes and at the ready to wave down a bus hurtling by at breakneck speeds.

On my walk I passed little jewelry shops, variety stores, delis, Indian restaurants, I never noticed before. They are sustained by the spirit that keeps Norwalk special: long-time loyalties of old neighborhoods, friendships and families. And judging by the shabbiness of some of these little strip malls, I imagine, reasonable rent.

Jogging across the street to get out of the way of the cars not used to or particularly respectful of pedestrians, I stepped across a grate in the tarmac, so clogged with dirt that grass grows between the metal slats. I’ll remember that next time the road floods. I passed the cows and chickens fenced in outside of Stew Leonard’s crazy ‘Dairy Store’ where I popped inside for a good cup of coffee to drink while I walked. Then I criss-crossed the parking lot to a side street that leads home.  No sidewalk, so I hugged the shoulder while admiring houses and gardens up-close. I turned my face up to the sun and later, flinched away from the bloody sight of squirrel-road-kill. A dog I’d never met leaped off his patch of lawn to bark at me. I noticed two houses that looked empty -desolate windows and peeling paint. Making my way home in the morning sun, I paid attention and really saw my neighborhood.

6 thoughts on “Walking Home in a Car-World”

  1. I never knew you grew up in NYC. At age eight my daughter walked down 71st street with her friend to get a manicure. (Without my permission.) I loved walking in the city. Any city.

  2. I agree. The cities I like and remember best are the ones I’ve walked around. When I first arrived in the US with my children we drove from the airport in Chicago to the hotel we’d be staying in. On the way over he asked plaintively, “Where are the people?” I had to tell him they were in the cars …

  3. Paying attention to the “poetry and essence of a place”…..I love your words. Even while walking, I still have to remind myself “Out and Up” – to get out of my head and look up at the trees….But it is such a good reminder…..there are miracles all around if only we SEE. XO, Lea

  4. I like that: “Out and Up” — I’ll have to remember that. The looking up part IS so important — everything seems so, well, so much more ‘up’ when looking at the sky, etc. xxxx

  5. Thanks, Irene, although your’sis the cool one! So lively and fun. Great shots and tips – even for us older moms.

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