Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Do Your Legs Work At All?

Jerry Seinfeld once commented about the 'people mover conveyors' found at some airports and how folks are content to just allow the mechanism to carry them to their destination. "Do your legs work at all", he wondered. That pretty much sums up how disinclined people are to walk anywhere nowadays. They drive everywhere, no matter how close, to get what they need. Furthermore, they will park in handicapped spaces to avoid walking an extra 50 yards from the regular parking spaces. They will get back in the car and drive to another store in the same strip mall rather than walk the short distance. This unwillingness to walk anywhere is one of the reasons for the alarming obesity trend in this country. 

As kids, we walked everywhere. The walk to school every day was maybe 15 minutes; the playground the same. We ran errands for our parents that involved walking to neighborhood stores anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes from home. Longer walks were not uncommon, for example, Highland Park was in Jamaica, maybe a 30 minute walk from home. They had the best baseball fields with real grass and base paths, so we carried our bats and gloves to Jamaica, played a nine-inning game, and then walked home again. The two neighborhood movie theaters were maybe 15 and 20 minute walks from home. There were certainly trains and buses that ran to these destinations, but the nickel fare would also buy any candy bar on the shelf, so we walked.

One of the benefits of walking the neighborhood was that you got to know people. I could start on Rockaway Avenue and walk down Somers Street and tell you who lived in every house all the way down to Stone Avenue. People would greet you as you walked by....How's your mother; don't let me see you again with a cigarette in that mouth; can you go to Louie's and get me a Daily Mirror? These were the exchanges between you and the folks sitting out on their front stoops. Walking also taught you the local streets and how to get around. You knew which block that cute girl lived on, and sometimes walked by just on the chance she'd glance your way. You also knew which blocks it was best to avoid after dark.

In my mind's eye, I can still walk the route to school and church; we must have walked to Callahan and Kelly Park a thousand times to visit the playground, play handball against the wall, or sit on the benches and smoke cigarettes lifted from our fathers' packs. I can see all the mom and pop stores along Pitkin Avenue, our modest shopping mecca. My Dad worked there in the A.S. Beck shoe store and I would sometimes pass and wave hello. There was little turnover in those stores; they stayed in the family for generations. We got to know the proprietors, not because we always shopped there but because on our walks we would see them proudly sweeping the street in front of their stores. 

I know people who go on vacation and spend all their time at the hotel pool. I am so glad we are still in the habit of walking. When we visit new cities, we are hardly checked into the hotel before we hit the streets for a walk around town. Thankfully our legs do still work and we are happy to have them take us where we want to go.


ALSO, READ MY OTHER BLOG, BRAINDROPS:  http://jpantaleno.blogspot.com/

Children's Craniofacial Association   http://www.ccakids.com/


Joseph Del Broccolo said...

It seems walking was what I always did. I didn't even own a bike! We walked to Pitkin Avenue, all the parks including Highland and on Holy Thursday, I had to trudge along with Mom as she visited three churches! Why three I still don't know.

Jim Pantaleno said...

Need an odd number in case the Saints disagree.