I’ve experienced some really beautiful moments while walking. Or riding my bicycle. Or looking out the window of a bus.
Three years ago, the engine in my car died a sudden, violent death. A spark plug basically exploded and took its surroundings with it. It was a cold, winter day, I was two miles from my destination, and I somehow was able to limp the car there and avoid making the walk in -20F temps. It never ran again. RIP, Saturn Wagon.
Three years later I still haven’t bought a car. Full disclosure: I share a car with my (now) husband, although at the beginning of the experiment, we had just started dating, so that hasn’t always been the case.
I take the bus quite a bit. I ride my bike. I walk. Sometimes it’s a hassle. Most of the time it feels pretty neutral. Other times I come across things that I would have totally missed otherwise.
Last week I was heading to my kettlebells class from work, which requires an express bus, a short ride on the light rail, and a 3/4 mile walk. As I was walking, I passed by a high school track meet in progress. I stopped on the sidewalk, just beyond the last corner of the track, and watched the women’s 400m race. Two girls were neck and neck along the back stretch, and as they rounded that last corner, one of the girls pulled ahead and sprinted to a win.
It was a rainy, chilly day. There were shouts coming from a van parked on the street in front of me and a little girl hanging out the window, watching. I peeked in as I walked by and asked the woman if that was one of her people. She looked at me and beamed with pride as she said “yep, that’s my daughter.”
As I walked away, I found myself struck by the beauty of that moment. The mother’s pride, her obvious adoration for her daughter, the little girl straining her head out the window to watch her sister. Unscripted, genuine, and raw. A glimpse into humanity in its simplest form.
In a car, everything passes by so quickly. I get in the car and then I’m at my destination, and everything in between is just a blur. Sometimes a stressful blur. But when I’m walking, or on my bike, or even on the bus, I experience my surroundings in a different, less hurried way. I connect with people.
I’m pretty sure I’ve started driving more slowly. Some people in their cars get so angry when they’re slowed down for even a few seconds. I find myself wondering what the hurry could possibly be, that arriving a minute or two earlier is going to make a difference. I feel stressed seeing how stressed and angry other drivers are, intent on getting to their destination as quickly as possible. It makes me feel sad.
My mom used to call me “Mario,” in reference to my driving. Mario the race car driver, not Mario the mustachioed Nintendo character. I used to have a tiny little 4-cylinder hatchback that I could zoom all over town in (I miss that car). Now I just shake my head and wonder what the hurry is.
I like living slowly. The more I do it, the more I like it, and the less tolerance I have for over-scheduled days/weeks/months. I like to be able to take my time getting from one place to another, and give myself a lot of breathing room so that I can enjoy my day.
Sometimes I’ll take a different bus home and get dropped off across the river. The walk is about 40 minutes. I love walking over the bridge and seeing downtown lit up at night over the river. I love walking through the neighborhoods, seeing what people are doing with their houses, their lawns. Saying hello to folks out running or walking their dogs. I get home at night already relaxed, and with a smile on my face.
We drive our car. Seth takes it to work sometimes. Sometimes he rides his bike. I take it to work occasionally. We drive to get groceries or run errands, or to head across town. And some days it just sits at home and doesn’t move. I like those days.