I started to walk-the-walk at noon yesterday, which meant that last night, instead of driving to my son’s high school orientation, we walked.
I’ve been getting various responses to my announcement that I am giving my car a break for one month and taking public transportation, carpooling, walking or riding my bike. Several have said something to the effect of, “Cute idea, but you’re not really going to follow through with it are you?” One of my friends actually burst out laughing when I told her, then caught herself and said, “No! Really?!”
In many cities around the world, walking or riding the bus does not have any social stigma. Using public transportation is not indicative of a drunk driving conviction or of a lost job or of a decrepit car that simply can’t make it out of the driveway anymore; it is simply a means to get to-and-from work. Respectable people do it all the time. Not here though. I’m already getting funny looks from people, and that’s before I’ve even embarked on my little journey.
Which is probably why my son flat out refused to walk to school last night. He didn’t want to be seen walking…and with his parents, no less. He doesn’t care about the environment. He doesn’t care about getting fit. He just doesn’t want people to think he’s a loser. Eventually, he went, though he made it a point to walk far ahead of my husband and me, as we strolled the 1.3 miles to school.
It was a pleasant evening, so the walk was very nice. It’s been a while since I held my husband’s hand. We got there in about 15 minutes or so and found a line of cars waiting to get into an impossibly crowded parking lot. There was a surge of people in the lot itself, with kids frantically darting from idling cars in an effort to get a seat at the orientation while their parents made a futile effort to find a space. Those who were not yet committed were trying to back out and go someplace else; and, in the end, many of them were forced to park around the corner and walk…just as we did but with a lot more headaches. I noticed none of them were holding hands.
Of course it was the same scene in reverse when the orientation was over and everyone ran to their cars only to sit in a stagnant sea of chrome and steel. Interestingly enough, my son was willing to be seen walking back home with us; so we got a chance to chat and laugh and just be together on the stroll home. It was, as the commercial says, PRICELESS.
This morning, I spent most of my time going through the Orange County Transit Authority's website, a hideously complex and user-unfriendly site, trying to find routes to and from my various appointments this coming week. I ended up calling one of their customer service reps, who proceeded to give me the longest possible bus route, involving three transfers and a thirty minute (uphill) walk to get to one destination. After looking at the online bus routes again and then comparing them with the streets on Mapquest, I realized I could get there with one bus, though I would still need to walk uphill at the end of the line. Even so, an hour bus ride is better than an hour-and-a half bus ride (though neither compares with the 15 minutes it would take me to drive my car).
The rep also told me to be sure to be at the bus stop 10 minutes ahead of time because, if I miss the bus, there won’t be another along that route until the next hour. As I listened to her, I thought of walking onto the subway station in New York, knowing I’d catch the next train within 15 minutes. I could go virtually anywhere I wanted to go in the city, day or night, as long as the subway was running (and, as far as I know, it never stops).
Not every place in Orange County has bus service; and those that do are often two or three transfers from the route that runs by my house, which means that what would ordinarily be a 15 to 30 minute journey will take anywhere from an hour to two hours to get there by bus and by foot. Not only that; but, if I want to go someplace late at night, I’m out of luck. The busses stop running after 10:00 pm in my town.
After pouring over maps and routes and schedules, I have come to the conclusion that, if I live within 10 miles of my destination, I’m better off riding a bike than trying to take the bus, though that is certainly not an option after dark. I know there are people who ride their bikes after dark around here, but I've seen too many near misses between cars and bikes to be one of them.
So now I’m looking at my calendar again and re-evaluating whether or not I really need to go to all of the events I have penciled in. I’m certainly not going to be able to attend back-to-back meetings in different cities via bus or bike. One thing is for sure: I’m going to have to re-evaluate my business as usual routine and find another way of doing things.