I love walking. My car currently doesn’t work, and so I do a lot of it. My work is about a mile and a half away from where I live, which gives me quite a nice walk through the largest local park, which has a big lake in the middle. Most days I go into work at 9 a.m., and the walk is largely empty of pedestrians. When I leave, however, the residents of the assisted-living homes really come out to adventure. On Saturdays especially, there are maybe 60 or so elderly wandering the mile and a half long trail around the lake. The worst part of walking this lake (for anyone who is under the age of 60) is the problem of passing someone. I am not a particularly fast walker, but these old people really keep an inconvenient speed. This morning, for example, I spent maybe half of my walk consoling myself that passing the old man and his assumed grand-daughter was wrong. Instead of passing them, and causing a distraction with my tattered backpack and black skinny-jeans, I stayed behind them. This soon gave me anxiety, as I felt like I was following too close behind them. “What are ya, tryin’ to kidnap my Sally?” I envisioned the old man yelling.
This thought caused me to hunch over and slow my pace even more. Now if someone saw me, I thought they’d assume I was some junkie, trying to wake himself up from last night’s bender with a walk around the park. What a disgrace.
This thought caused me to suddenly perk up. I wanted to speed-walk around these losers, show them who was boss. I wasn’t any junkie, I was on my way to work! Sure, it was at a liquor store, but I just supplied the junkies, I wasn’t one myself.
The town I live in is also not so conducive to walking, and so leaving work proves to be somewhat problematic as well. I could wait at the nearest stop light, which takes an average of 12 minutes to change – or I can, and always do, j-walk across the six-lane street with my after-work beer in hand.
This must make me look like some sort of local degenerate, but I have surprisingly never run into any problems. I am generally listening to an audiobook or music on my walk home, but sometimes I leave my headphones mute – hoping that someone will say something about me, thinking I won’t hear it. At the thought of this, I’ll turn around, call them out in front of their trembling grand-something, and I’ll prove to be the most victorious person at Clement park. What a victory.
Instead of ever actually doing this, I try to smile at everyone along my walk. Having this terrible Rambo-esque narrative in my head at the same time sometimes makes me nervous, however, and I often come off as standoffish. This is also because I am extremely standoffish.
My current after-work routine is to buy two beers, and finish one when I am halfway around the lake. I then walk to my town-favorite port-a-potty, where I know I will always have to urinate. It’s pretty crazy being in that port-a-potty. I know that it’s not going to smell as bad as most port-a-potties because it’s on a “work site” which I pass every day on my way to work, but have never seen anyone actually working in. There is one skinny, long turd sitting on top of the blue water. It’s been there since the first time I used this port-a-potty, and it has always been this way. The toilet is filled mostly with cleaning supplies, and so the smell isn’t too offensive inside. In fact, when I’m in that port-a-potty, and I’m looking up at the almost translucent white plastic that is the roof, I almost feel as though I could be anywhere. My family went to the Grand Canyon when I was little and I still remember the port-a-potties. I can relive that experience whenever I want in this one, specifically. Sometimes I pretend I’m at the Grand Canyon, sometimes it’s in the jungle, sometimes I pretend I’m a construction person in some grandiose Japanese city.
When I get out of the port-a-potty, I have one more smaller park to walk past. This is the park which is directly in the middle of the suburbs. This is the wild west of white, suburban, elderly neighborhoods. A couple days ago I was walking, doing the mute headphones thing, and I watched an elderly man with headphones on, stumbling along the dirt next to the walking path. The woman 20 feet behind him gave out an odd look and so I looked down at my feet. I heard a loud, hollow clank and looked back up. The 60-something with the headphones had ran directly into a light pole. He then tried to make it look like it was just a part of the song he was listening to; something he had choreographed in his basement and was finally trying in public. Okay, when the chorus comes, spin around the light pole. Don’t hold back, Gary, don’t hold back. The woman walking behind him looked embarrassed, almost sad. She looked like someone who would sometime soon have to share a meal with this man.
One of the other things I love about walking is the wildlife. I live in a state where people travel from all over the world to see some of the vast wildlife, but not much beats seeing the geese and ducks be assholes to each other at the park. In the daytime, the geese will often block the sidewalks; in response to almost anything the geese do, the ducks will yell at them. When people come to walk by, the geese hiss and make you feel like a dick for getting some fresh air. I’ve also seen the geese block traffic, on the main roads at that. They’ve done it since I can remember being in a car. Knowing this, shortly after I got my driver’s license, I was speeding down a hill from Taco Bell back to my high school with my two closest friends in the car. It was here that I made my first (and only) decision to kill a goose. Three geese, actually. I saw three geese being assholes, thinking that they could rule the streets of Littleton, and I mowed them down in my 2001 Ford Focus like a madman.
I also like the idea of “going to the beach” at my park and on my local walks. Sometimes I will sit on the goose-shit-ridden shores of the Clement Park lake and think to myself: I’m super glad we got to get out to the beach today.
I have sold alcohol to the many elderly people of Southwest Littleton to know that they are not necessarily my type; I have also grown up with the many dropouts who inhabit the skatepark at Clement, and come into my store routinely to dismiss life and skate the day away just blocks from where they grew up. And I can’t judge, because when I’m at that park, I hold back on my fears and failures and I just walk, and for a few minutes it’s all alright.