Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Will walk for coffee

I love my job! Actually, I’m talking about my day job, as I’m also doing the dual candle end thing most evenings with the writing and publishing.

The day job provides enough variety, diversity and challenges and I’m never bored. Many days, I get to travel to exotic Maine destinations like Augusta, Waterville, Skowhegan and Rumford. Other days, I am forced to spend my day tucked away in my cubicle, answering emails, returning calls and following up with my business partners. On those particulars day, I tend to feel a bit logy around 2 o’clock. Maybe it’s my habit of eating an early PM lunch and being sedentary most of the day. I'm sure my early rise at 4:30 am also has something to do with it. I wouldn’t trade my early hours, however, as I’m a subscriber to Ben Franklin’s axiom, at least the part that says early risers are “healthy, wealthy and wise.” On the first and third counts, I can say that while I need to shed a bit of excess baggage, regular exercise and good genes help contribute to success in this area; I like to think I am acquiring wisdom, if for no other reason than growing older and grayer, while paying attention to life’s experiences helps in that department. As far as wealth is concerned, I must say I missed that class when it was offered.

Yesterday, rather than hop in my car and drive to my local Dunkin’ Donuts, two miles away, I heeded Al Gore’s call to save the planet, opting to walk about ½ mile to the local convenience mart and buy a 16 oz. afternoon pep-me-up, aka, cup o’ joe.

Any time you decide to forego the internal combustion route for travel, you are bound to encounter issues. Maine, with the exception of maybe Portland, is like many other places—it isn’t geared to pedestrian-friendly modes of getting around.

While the end of town where I work at least has a sidewalk, it runs right along the busy Main Street, with cars and trucks ripping by at 45 to 50 miles per hour. It's not an overstatement to say it's a bit scary to see drivers coming at you, talking on their cell phones, when you have nothing to shield you, but your wits, from this hulk of synthetic material hurtling your way.

Whenever you decide to strike out on foot in most places, you immediately recognize that you are a rare bird—in a car-based culture, walking immediately pegs you as odd, eccentric, or too big of a loser to own a car. Add to the equation, someone walking, with business attire on and it really throws off the equilibrium of passers-by.

While the 25 minute walk was invigorating, the number of curb cuts, in and out of various business establishments, made a direct line near impossible, as cars trying to pull out into heavy traffic volume rarely see you, so a proactive walker knows to walk around the back of the exiting auto, so that they won’t accelerate towards a gap in traffic flow and run over you.

Three businesses actually had sprinklers operating at this time of the afternoon, spewing irrigation all over the sidewalk, forcing me to find another alternative path, or risk spending my last three hours at work in soggy attire.

As I returned to the office, I had to cross at a busy intersection. While there was a button on the traffic light pole, to activate the crossing sign, when it indicated it was safe to pass, cars turning left from across the way, actually had a green arrow, necessitating my need to goose step across the street, to avoid being hit.

While I have an automobile and can choose to walk or ride, other members of the community don’t and I often see them walking along the very same route that I took for my afternoon coffee stroll. They also tend to be folks that don’t usually involve themselves in “causes” and “campaigns,” as they’re too busy just trying to scratch out a living. This is probably why sidewalks and pedestrian options are always thought about as ancillary, or peripheral items in any urban planning and design decision.

Maybe as talk about addressing global warming continues to ramp up, some solutions oriented towards pedestrian and bicycle travel might be added to the mix that still often centers around maintaining our dependance on the automobile.

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