Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Dangers of Walking

Lately I have taken to walking a lot, three to six miles a day if I can. It’s part exercise, part clearing my head, part trying to get off a plethora of prescription drugs for high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and for all I know cholera, dyspepsia and sleep apnea. Getting older ain’t no cakewalk and the truth is, I hate taking pills of any kind. It probably has something to do with being in recovery.

Whenever possible I find a woodland trail of which there are thousands of miles in Virginia. I see deer, an occasional beaver, many birds, turtles and snakes and interesting bugs. I also stroll from my middle-class neighborhood to a local mall, occasionally walking in the street when there are no sidewalks, which is far too often.

Here are some of the things I have noticed. 

  1. The overwhelming number of cars on the roads during rush hour carries one occupant, the driver. It is pretty obvious that carpooling hasn’t caught on around here and that we continue to see driving as a solitary occupation. During non-rush hour, it’s still one occupant, and when it’s more than one it’s generally a mother with kids. In daytime hours, there are by far more women behind the wheel than there are men.
  2. People are pigs. Even in the best of neighborhoods, the roadside is littered with empty plastic bottles and empty packs of cigarettes, butts, discarded clothing—mostly white socks (?)—broken glass, paper, dirty diapers, cans, and, inexplicably, black plastic combs. There is one used condom per 100 spaces in many parking lots.
  3. Most cars are grey or black, reflecting the mood of the country, and though we may have traded in our 20-footers for smaller models, we love our big fat SUVs and the gas mileage is still appalling.
  4. Where I live, recently recognized as one of the most affluent area of the nation, there are more Mercedes, Audi, BMWs and Porsches than there are Toyotas or VWs. A lot of them are entry-level C-Class “Baby” Mercedes which cost in the mid-30s. Asian women appear to like them.
  5. Asian women are the worst drivers in the world. I’ve almost been hit twice by cars (I walk towards traffic) and both times it was by Asian women driving SUVs. Once I had to leap into a ditch to avoid being smushed, and I’m a fairly large, easy to see guy. We may need to institute a special test for ladies from the East, or restrict them to smaller vehicles like Fiats, Minis, or Smart cars.
  6. One out of three drivers is talking on a mobile phone while driving. It’s technically illegal in Virginia but obviously unenforceable.
  7. Policemen do eat donuts. There’s almost always a cop car parked in front of the local 7-11.  
  8. Most people who drive pick-up trucks never pick up anything bigger than a bag of groceries. 
  9. There are two kinds of bicyclists: the ones who use their bike to get to work, and the ones who dress up in $300 of bright yellow and red wicking Lycra and pretend they’re on the Tour de Virginia. The latter are the more annoying. I have never seen an Asian woman on a bicycle, perhaps because the level of havoc they could wreak on one is far smaller than what they can do in an SUV or a C-Class “Baby” Mercedes.
I plan to keep walking though as the days get shorter, I’ll probably try to find more areas with sidewalks even if this does not insure safety. An article in yesterday’s Washington Post tells of a driver whose car went over a median strip, smashed through a fence and hit a man and a dog on the sidewalk.  It was a C-Class Benz.

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