Sunday, July 20, 2008

Through the Courtesy of His Two Feet

Years ago, we used to joke about placing a personal ad for our friend Matt.

SMOKING DOCTOR, we imagined the headline running.
Enjoys short walks to the parking lot, logging on to scenic websites.

Actually, I'm not even sure scenic is what he was looking for in a website, but you get the picture.

And in that same spirit, you can now sit on your duff and log onto a website to find out how walkable your neighborhood is.

Which seems so much more convenient than having to stand up, walk to the door, open it, and peer outside.

Except that when I logged onto the site, it didn't actually work. Which I guess is okay, because I already know my neighborhood is walkable.

We walk across the street to the Walgreen's, conveniently opened 24 hours a day. Because at 3 am you might need toilet paper, a tshirt with the American flag, one-bowl just-add-water-then-microwave brownie mix , or a kit to fill your own dental cavity.

In fact, you can almost imagine the chain of events that would lead you to need all those things at 3 am. Although not necessarily in that order.

We can also walk to restaurants, cafes, and bars. The library is just at the corner, or if your literary attachments last longer than a three-week loan period, you can walk a few more blocks and hit the Powell's bookstore.

And let's not forget the Fred Meyer, which is the Oregon equivalent of Target, although with the unfortunate slogan I Got It At Fred Meyer. That always makes me feel like I should stop back at the Walgreen's and see if there's a prescription for some -cillin or other that can treat whatever it is that I got at Fred Meyer.

But one of the most convenient features of our neighborhood is that you can walk to the auto mechanic. Which we did this week. Pushing our car.

Canceling the AAA membership seemed like a really good idea four months ago. When we hadn't needed a jump start, TripTik, or tow in who knows how many $85 per annum membership cycles.

If by any chance you've taken 11th grade English, you know the Greek gods are up on Mount Olympus, just waiting for you to cancel your AAA membership before they screw with the starter motor on your 99 Saturn.

We tried to push start the car, just like in that movie Eternal Little Miss Sunshine of the Spotless Engine Block.

But when the engine didn't start after half a block, we just figured we might as well push it the other five blocks to the shop.

Cheez, being gallant, let me steer while he pushed. It was kind of like being in a parade, the car moving S-L-O-W-L-Y through the city streets, people stopping to stare, me waving.

Why hadn't I worn my tiara?

At one point I saw a cop car in the rear view mirror. I couldn't really signal to Cheez, and I didn't want to slam on the brakes, so I just waited for the rollers to roll up, wondering what laws apply when you're moving — but not actually operating — a motor vehicle. Cheez stopped pushing long enough to explain what we were doing to the nice officer, while I rolled on ahead, admiring the slight downgrade I'd never noticed on our street and waiting for him to catch up.

All in all, I feel like it was a preview of how most people will be using their cars in the future. Between the rising cost of gas and the increasing numbers of Americans desperate for any kind of employment, I expect we may be seeing a few more sedan chairs on the road.

Short walk to the parking lot. Long push to anyplace else.

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