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.