Saturday, September 3, 2016

Observations From a Bench

For obvious reasons, my doctors have me walking a lot more than I used to.  Walking without a destination is boring, yet when I actually walk somewhere, everyone yells at me.  The other day, I walked to the local mall, but was too tired to walk home.  When I called The Doc, my wife, for a ride home, for a little while it looked like I was going to have to live at the mall.

“Are you trying to die?”, she asked.  “Why are you pushing it?”  Actually, it took a while before she said this, for most of the trip home she wouldn’t talk to me.

Of course I’m trying to die early.  That’s why I have spent the last ten years eating what I call "the goat puke diet".  If fish and chicken are honorary vegetables—and I believe they are—then I have been a vegetarian for a decade.  In a desperate attempt to lower my cholesterol, I no longer can remember what steak or milk taste like.  In the end, it didn’t matter, genetics won out over a diet that was better suited for a compost pile than my digestive system.

So, I’m walking a lot.  Actually, it is only a little, unless you too have had a bypass.  If you have had one, then you know what it's like to climb Mount Everest--at least if you laid it on its side.  (And flattened it a little).  While it might be strange for a person who lives in a mountainous state to say this, I currently believe that hills should be made illegal.

I have learned the exact location of every bus stop bench within two miles of my house.  As far as I can tell, there are far too many buses and far too few benches.  I have yet to see a bus drive by with more than four passengers, so it is rather obvious that the town is running a transit system at a huge loss.  Naturally, I have a suggestion:  For the next month, they should take the names of all the bus passengers, then sell the buses and just buy those few riders who actually use the service their own cars.  With the balance of the savings, the city should purchase more benches.

Actually, I have not yet encountered anyone sitting at one of the benches who was actually waiting for a bus.  The benches are being used by joggers, by skate boarders, and by a whole gaggle of elderly people who have been sent out to walk in the hot New Mexico sun.  People like me. 

Sitting on a bench alongside a busy street is a surprisingly good place to pass the time while thinking deep thoughts.  Deep Thoughts.  It is also a great place to wheeze and try to cough up a lung from the exertion of having walked a whole block. 

Evidently, the economy in southern New Mexico is slowly improving.  John D. MacDonald, the prolific author, once postulated that the best way to gauge the economy of an area was to plant yourself and observe traffic.  Count the number of cars that need body work or obvious repair.  I don’t remember what a passing score was, but in my decidedly non-scientific experiment, I only saw one car in need of serious body work, and it belonged to the local police department.

I’ve also observed that no one knows what bike lanes are for.  My walk was in the middle of the day, so this may explain why I saw absolutely no one riding a bike.  Bike lanes were used by people as a turn lanes, by the phone company for parking, and by that dented police car's occupant to give some poor soul a ticket.  If you actually tried to ride a bike in the "Bike Lane", you’d probably get run over.

Nor would I try to use any of the marked crosswalks.  One of those is directly in front of my house, and in the thirty years that I have lived there, I think I have seen someone stop for a pedestrian in it twice.  If someone did actually stop, most likely it would be to lure someone out so they could run over them.  Several of the cars seem named for this kind of violence:  Dodge, Probe, Ram, Diablo, and Fury.  Then again, if car names indicated how they would be used, the Hummer would have been a lot more popular.

Why are most of the people who are out walking "for their health" smoking cigarettes?  And why do they invariably flick the butts into other people’s front yards?  Are they mad at the people who don’t smoke?  I personally think that if you catch someone flicking a cigarette butt into your yard, you should be allowed to run over them with your car (but I might be a tad anti-social because of the lack of oxygen to my brain from walking too far).

By now, you must be wondering exactly why I have spent so much time sitting on this bench when I am supposed to be exercising.   Shortly before I decided I needed a long rest, that dented police car stopped in the bicycle lane and the policeman inside got out to talk to me.  He was very nice, very polite, and quite obviously thought I was very drunk.  It seems that I had not been walking too straight a line down the sidewalk.  It didn’t take very long to convince him that I was just stupid and not drunk, however.

He didn’t offer me a ride home, unfortunately!


  1. Exactly the advice I've needed to get started on a walking program myself!

  2. Having become a professional pedestrian/user of public transportation, I've found the public transportation system to be long on walking and rather short on transportation. I was going to use my bicycle, but given the steepness of some of the hills in my neighborhood, and the deterioration of my knees, that hasn't worked out so well. So I'm saving for a nice electric bicycle - one that will do 25 mph, needs no insurance, no license and will do 35 miles on a charge (and haul my 270 pounds up a steep hill). I do believe I've moved into another phase of my life and I'm not sure I like it.