Alright, so it’s no “eating in Italy” (my parents can attest), BUT I do deeply enjoy walking to places in the suburbs, especially somewhat far-flung ones like my parents’. People in their cars think you’re kinda strange (but also learn to watch out for us oddballs and perhaps even feel inspired to walk a block themselves). You get a little exercise, which can be a nice break from, in my case, studying. And at this modest pace, you see things you didn’t even notice were there before, things someone else put a little effort or personality into that would normally just blur past out the car window. Things like:
- The decorative gourds perched just so atop a sign for a quaint violin repair and rental shop—you can almost picture the careful hand that placed them (and, of course, incongruously, you can’t help recall this classic)
- How the side streets off this main road are suddenly less indistinguishable from one another, appear less bland and more sweet, look wide and peaceful and amenable to the careless sprint of a kid to cross, a kid like you once were
- The exuberant profusion of Halloween yard decor such as only a handful of suburban enthusiasts seem apt to assert, featuring such epitaph puns as “Will B. Bach,” “Gill O’Teen,” and one that might actually elicit a self-conscious pause out of the reader: “R. U. Next”
- The waft of cigarette smoke from outside a funeral home, betraying a lone mourner taking momentary respite from the gloom indoors
- The man hunched under a witch’s hat and an elaborate Halloween cape actively carving a pumpkin in the parking lot of a Jiffy Lube, oblivious to the rush-hour traffic passing him by (yes, seriously; I did a double-take to confirm, then another double out of appreciation for his hilarious bizarreness)
- That certain rosy and fleeting film of light that revives the canopy of dying leaves in flushes of ruby, persimmon, egg yolk
All that said, the Car-Head* condition still prevails. So use crosswalks, wear bright colors, and smile at the idiot who somehow still almost manages not to see you. Because, you know, there’s a “war on cars” or some such BS.
*Car-Head! A useful term coined (I think?) by my former boss:
…[A] North American condition: Car-head. Unintentionally and even unknowingly, we see the world as if through a windshield. We evaluate our surroundings as if from the driver’s seat (obstacles to speed? places to park?). We consider “automobile” almost a synonym for “transportation.” And we consider such thinking utterly normal. This Car-head mindset, this set of auto-oriented assumptions and perspectives, is so deeply enmeshed with our life experience that we are little aware of it. It’s so universal that we certainly shouldn’t be blamed for holding it. But it’s there and it’s powerful and it has consequences in our actions and, more important, in our communities’ decisions.