Walking

I’ve been walking more over the last few months. As part of our commitment to caring for our health following my wife’s hospitalization, we started out with a goal of 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 days a week. With our busy schedules it became practical to change that goal to seven days a week, because we don’t always know when an interruption might occur. As I got into the program, I started looking for other opportunities to walk and now am averaging about 5 miles per day. It isn’t a lot, but it impresses some of my friends. And it makes m feel better. I’ve lost a little bit of weight and I’ve gained stamina. Susan doesn’t walk quite as much as I, but she, too has exceeded her exercise goals every week for a couple of months now.

Because I have a busy schedule, I try to squeeze my walking into activities that I am doing. I walk to and from meetings if they aren’t too far. If I have an early morning meeting, I get up a bit earlier to allow time for walking. I used to go home for lunch, but I can save quite a bit of time by packing my lunch and walking during the lunch hour.

Yesterday we had a bit of fresh snow, which is a challenge for walking outside. The snow had come after a fairly warm day, so there was a layer of ice underneath the snow in many places. In the morning we walked downtown, where we found that most businesses had been diligent in clearing their walks. In the afternoon, with more time for the walks to be cleared, I took another walk, mostly on park paths, but starting at a local grocery store. From the store, I walked along a busy street to get to the park entrance.

I’ve found that most people are very polite around walkers. They are good about stopping at cross walks and being aware of pedestrians. They should. The law gives pedestrians the right of way in many cases. However, I have learned that a smart pedestrian will remain aware of the cars, because not even car is driven by someone who is looking out for pedestrians. I’ve had to jump out of the way of a car making a right turn on red without looking at the crosswalk. I’ve seen others who speed through crosswalks when the flashing lights come on. Yesterday my complaint, briefly, was a driver who seemed to speed up and steer directly for a very large puddle right next to the sidewalk. I saw it coming and got about six feet away from the sidewalk before the splash came, but it was big enough to leave drops on my jacket and pants. And that water was cold.

As usual, I quickly came to the conclusion that that particular driver wasn’t worth giving any more power, so I revoked the power to ruin my day and shifted my mind to more pleasant thoughts. I haven’t totally forgotten the incident, however. After all, I’m writing about it this morning.

The rest of my walk was very pleasant, including some warm greetings from strangers who were also out walking on the pathways. Crossing the street to get back to where my car was parked, I noticed two very thoughtful drivers who stopped well short of the crosswalk and waved back at me when I waved to them. There are definitely more kind people and attentive drivers out there than those who are not careful around pedestrians.

For years I had a real geographical bias. It seemed to me that western people were just more friendly than those from other places. When we lived in Chicago, I used to say that I hoped that if my car were to break down on the highway the incident would occur west of the Missouri River, because I knew I would get help in that region of the country. I wasn’t so sure that would happen farther East. It seemed to me that people were much more kind, more likely to be friendly and wave once we were west of the River. However, we did have our car breakdown on the freeway coming into Chicago once and we found the kindness of strangers to assist us with that event. My bias continued. Having lived more than three decades on the west side of the river in both Dakotas, it still seems like the folks on this side of the river are a bit more friendly and helpful than those on the other side. My bias might also reflect a rural/urban bias. I’m not a huge fan of cities and always feel a bit more at home out in the country.

I almost always cut across the empty country of southeastern Montana when heading west rather than taking the Interstate through Wyoming. It feels safer and more at home to travel on two lane roads than the Interstate where the cars go by at 80 mph without much notice of what else is going on.

It occurs to me that I may have a bias for slow vs speed as well. I know that I have good friends and family members who responsibly drive at Interstate speeds and there are a lot of reasons why people need to save time by going quickly from place to place. Still, I think that as I grow older, I may become one of those “old man drivers” who is going at a slower pace than the rest of the world. I hope that I have the sense to do so without becoming an obstruction to traffic. but one of the things that walking continues to teach me is that you aren’t always less productive just because you take a bit longer to get from place to place. I find that I accomplish a lot of work by taking time to walk. I can consider problems and come up with creative solutions. I can think through presentations. I can be more efficient in meetings.

If you see me out walking, thanks for th offer of a ride. I hope you won’t be offended when I refuse. Sometimes I just like to take a bit longer to arrive at my destination. Life is, after all, a journey.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!