Friends ask me if I’m still doing “that walking thing.” The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is a bit more complicated. I started walking-the-walk as a kind of experiment, a game, a challenge to be met or not, and it wasn’t that important either way; after all, if it didn’t work out, I could always drive. It’s not like I invested thousands of dollars in some new technology.
Since I started this adventure, though, I have learned that I am an addict. I never thought of myself as one, but I am addicted to my automobile. During the past three weeks, I have gone the gamut of emotions: From decision to dedication to doubt to the vehicular version of delirium tremens (this when the bus I was waiting an hour-and-a-half for never came) and finally onto a determination to just do it.
I haven’t always succeeded. Yesterday, I had to jump in my car and rush to a last-minute appointment that I simply could not miss; there was no way the bus would have gotten me there on time. And, twice, I had to accept a ride to the airport when there was no means of mass transit available. Then there were the judgment calls: Does carpooling my son to school with his friends count? What about asking my husband to pick up a gallon of milk while he was out? I’ve tried to be as honest with myself as possible; if it wasn’t at least close to being on someone else’s way, then I haven’t ridden with them or asked them to run a quick errand for me. But automobiles are such a pervasive part of our lives that it is difficult to steer clear of them completely.
Oh, how I have yearned for my car! Just to get a loaf of bread. Just a short little trip to the corner store. Just a quickie to the dry cleaners or the bank or the post office. Who would that hurt, really? Who would even need to know? But I have resisted. And, over time, I have come to realize I didn’t really need to get that loaf of bread. Or, if I did, I could just as easily walk over to the store and back. Same thing with the dry cleaners. Not so much with the bank or the post office; they’re too far away to walk. But I could ride a bike. Or I could bundle my errands into one trip rather than two or four or more. With a little planning, I could, in a word, be more efficient. The truth is: most of the trips we take are not necessary and those that are would be much more enjoyable if taken in the company of our fellow human beings.
So now I’m going on week 4. But, really, I don’t think this will end next week. I’ve broken my addiction…at least as much as possible, given my physical environment. Tonight, I am going to University of California, Irvine for CalIT2's Clean Energy Challenge; and it seems only natural that I should take the bus there and get a ride back with my son, who has music practice nearby. This coming week will be a bit more problematic because I will be up at University of Southern California for their News Entrepreneur Boot Camp and there is no way to go there 100% via public transportation. I can take the Metrolink or Amtrak up to LA, and I can take the shuttle to-and-from Union Station; but there simply are no busses running from my house to the Irvine train depot at the times I need to go.
I’ve had people tell me, “I can’t possibly walk-the-walk because I have small children.” Or “I work sales; I live in my car.” Or “I live out in the boonies where there is no public transit.” However, there is always a “but.” “…but I carpool with other moms.” “…but I have a hybrid, so at least I get good gas mileage.” “…but I drive into the city with my husband, and we run all our errands on the way back home.” And, as far as I’m concerned, these people are all walking-the-walk. They are not just getting in their cars and driving as a knee jerk reaction to life. They are giving it some thought. And, yes, they may be making some compromises. But, until we have better infrastructure or more efficient technologies, that may be the best they can do. At the end of the day, we’re all taking baby steps.