Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This entry, I hope, fits squarely in the realm of What would I not notice (as much) if I’d been driving instead of walking. The answer? Flowering trees/bushes. I took note this morning of the various kinds I passed & how many. I don’t know the names of them all, but there were three basic groups: white, yellow, and red. I remember these bursts of color shortly after moving to Tennessee. We had wildflowers in Texas. Here, it was dogwoods, azaleas, and the like. Seeing them for the first time…roughly 8 years ago…helped my family feel welcome—like we’d made a good decision to move.

Here’s the official color count from my commute: 18 white trees, 2 yellow bushes, and 1 red. The highlight was the set of three dogwoods in the gazebo area of downtown. Seeing them made me thankful…thankful I don’t have bad allergies. I was especially thankful for God who may’ve created such beauty just so people like me would notice it and say, “There must be someone out there who lovingly caused these things to be.”

In the middle of my commute, I got to enjoy a brief visit with a friend out walking his dog. I didn’t stop…just kept on walking while talking. I hope that doesn’t seem rude to anyone. He was kind of trying to stay on the move, too. He commented that I seemed to be going the wrong direction, and technically he was right. I was sort of passing the campus, only to circle around and catch it on the other side. I just told him I needed the extra exercise. It was nice running into him. He happens to be one of the people I see walking to work on a regular basis. He may even blog about it. Who knows?

P.S. Picked up a plastic wrapper from a two-cracker pack (Zesta). It was in the alleyway behind the downtown pharmacy. Two days ‘til National Walk to Work Day!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Out of My Way

This morning, I took the longest way to work imaginable, and it came to 1,866 paces. That’s roughly 800 paces more than my “normal” route (see Feb. 23rd entry). About 40 of those steps were actually in the complete opposite direction from campus. That stretch felt weird, but it went quickly. The things I do for the sake of this blog! Sheesh!

Since I was counting steps I could hardly think of anything else. But I did notice two things that I might’ve missed if I’d been quickly driving instead of slowly walking by. Two of my across-the-street neighbors…maybe three…are needing their lawns mowed. All three houses are home to at least mildly elderly people. My goal this week is to stop by & ask at least one of them if I can help ‘em out with their yard. Maybe the deadlines I give myself here for all the world to see will spur me on to being a better neighbor. Ride Offers (to date): 4…Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 12

Mark your calendars! National Walk to Work Day is the first Friday in April (April 2nd). Follow this link to learn more.

P.S. Picked up a 6” x 6” piece of peeled paint from garden area of the library. I do promise to explain some day why I bothered.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Walked to work for the first time in 9 days. To celebrate, I took the long route. I also happened to leave the house early…for a change. The weather was perfect & is supposed to stay that way this week. With that in mind, I plan on leaving early (seriously) & taking the long way every day.

The main thing on my mind this morning was my walking places mentor: Scott Savage. He’s the Quaker guy who walked across the state of Ohio to the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles to revoke his driver’s license. He just felt like doing it in person & thought walking there would make the most sense. He’d become a horse & buggy man and didn’t plan on ever driving again. He states in his book (a Plain Life) that when he was in the magazine publishing business, some of his readers would ask him why he didn’t ride a bicycle to get places instead of using a horse which requires food & upkeep. He talks about deliberately choosing the seemingly harder/slower path. His reasons aren’t exactly mine. So I spent most of my commute thinking what I’d say to someone who asked, “Wade, why don’t you get a bike?” or “Why don’t you drive more often?” I found it harder than expected to put it into words. The concept I am drawn to, though, is the word “deliberate.” I like that my slow commute is something I’ve chosen to do. It hasn’t been forced on me. It’s a choice that goes back (8 years) to conversations with our realtor, “We need something affordable, with a roomy yard, with at least 2 bedrooms, and within walking distance of campus.” There were days I felt sorry for our realtor. If we could’ve budged a little on the walking distance thing, life would’ve been so much easier for him. We didn’t. He came through for us. And we’re still reaping the benefits…deliberately.

P.S. Picked up two straws (side by side) behind the downtown pharmacy. One had yellow racing stripes and the other had red. They were a cute couple.

Friday, March 19, 2010

WooHoo Spring Break!

I typically like to record events that happened on my walk to work the day of, not the day before, but a little something from yesterday’s commute is sticking in my mind. I caught a glimpse of a small boy being led into a preschool by what looked like his mom in front and his grandmother behind. The little guy was so cute, with his baseball cap and backpack. He was talking, I think, but was too far away for me to hear. Seeing him go in the front door of the preschool made me think of a couple things. It, of course, made me think of my own children. For starters, it made me thankful—thankful that my wife decided long ago that our children would be at home (from dawn till dusk) during their very young years. It’s actually something we couldn’t have hardly done if we hadn’t moved here…to small town U.S.A.

A couple in a truck pulled up beside me this morning & asked me for directions to the ‘pain clinic.’ I had to tell them I was aware of several clinics, but not a pain one. I referred them to the pharmacist who was busy at work in the pharmacy I’d just passed. I figured if anyone would know about a pain clinic, it’d be him. Thankfully, it wasn’t just me. My coworker, who’s lived in town for decades, hadn’t heard of a pain clinic either. About a block later, I exchanged “Good mornings.” with a garbage man. The truck he was holding onto was stopped at a red light downtown, only a few feet away from the sidewalk. He said “Good morning” first. What a guy!

P.S. Picked up a used mustard thingamajig from behind the library this morning. There wasn’t much litter to choose from today, thankfully. I have a feeling the mustard was the condiment companion of the ketchup I picked up earlier in the week. Who knows?

P.P.S. As I walked home for lunch today, a couple of students (girls) drove by. Their windows were down and one of them had her head sticking out, with both hands in the air, shouting over & over, “WooHoo, Spring Break!” I’m much too reserved to do something like that, but she took the words right out of my mouth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All Ears

I took stock of every little sound I heard on my way in this morning. There were some repeats, but it basically boiled down to ten distinct sounds. Here they are, in chronological order.

1) Birds. They were non-stop from start to finish. I’m no expert, but there seemed to be about 5 different kinds of chirping, and they were all saying roughly the same thing, “Spring is here!”
2) Garbage Trucks. At one point, it was two at one time. With all the sounds that figure into garbage collecting, including the beep beeps that go off when the trucks are in reverse.
3) Dog. Just one, barking at one of the garbage trucks.
4) Passing Cars. About a dozen.
5) A/C Units. Yunno that hum they make? There were two that were loud enough for me to hear.
6) Squirrels. There was one or two circling a tree trunk. I heard that sound their claws make.
7) Electrical Meter. I passed within inches of a utility pole with a meter. It was humming.
8) House Door. Someone slammed it while they were leaving.
9) Car Door. That same person slammed their car door seconds later.
10) Radio. It was a muffled radio program (like a talk show), coming from a parked car.

I’m trying to think about how many of these sounds I would’ve missed had I been on wheels, not on foot. Probably 9, including the birds. That thought makes me kind of sad…for drivers.

P.S. Picked up what looked like a dryer sheet from the sidewalk near the North Ave. pharmacy. It didn’t smell like a dryer sheet, though. That’s right…I took a whiff.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Praying...for a Change

Some who know me (perhaps not very well), and see me walking to work without headphones, may assume I spend a lot of my commute in prayer. I wish they were right. I do think a lot, but not so much pray…regrettably. I did, for a change, today. Helping me along the way were 8 landmarks that I plan on using more and more…for the purpose of prayer. It may be hokey…but the plan may be just what I need. I’m a fairly visual person after all. I need to see can’t-miss things to jog my memory. Normal things, like notes taped to mirrors, index cards wedged in between the keys of my keyboard, utility poles.

I pass 8 utility poles on the average morning. Each one, close enough to touch. And they’re spaced just far enough apart to be useful for prayer. In other words, if I begin talking to God about one thing (as I pass one pole), the timing’s about right to pray about something or someone else when I reach the next pole. It’s definitely something worth experimenting with. Everything to gain, nothing to lose.

I’ll say one thing, those 8 poles helped this morning. But rather than praising God for 8 different things or praying to Him for 8 different people, I prayed 8 different times for one person. For one of the closest Christian friends I’ve had in my adult life. My repeated prayer was, “Father, may he feel exactly what you feel whenever families separate.” Amen.

Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 11

P.S. At the end of my prayer/commute time, I picked up a deflated orange balloon w/ an orange string from the sidewalk behind the library.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reading On the Go

I never, ever read while I’m walking to work. I’ve hardly ever had any interest in doing so. Actually, I don’t typically think about work at all during my morning commute. It’s one of the things I appreciate about my job…not a lot of need to think about work-related things away from work. There was no way I could avoid either this morning. I had an 8:00 presentation to give—a presentation that wasn’t quite what I’m used to. It had me stressed late last night & stressed early this morning. So stressed, I just couldn’t let my 9 minute walk go to waste. I spent the time reading & reviewing my notes for the presentation. I suppose it was something I couldn’t have done if I’d been driving, but still…it was no fun. For one, it distracted me from enjoying the early signs of Spring—things like flowering trees & those yellow flowers that come up before anything else this time of year. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to catch up on the scenery. No more early morning presentations to give this week, and therefore…no more reading on the go.

Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 10

P.S. Picked up a Sunday School-type handout from the parking lot of the campus Art Building.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fellow Walker?

The Morning’s Weather Report: Cool, Gray. I took the long way in this morning, & as usual passed the local Senior Citizens Center in the process. I noticed a cute old woman getting out of her car. It took her a while, in part, because she had to wrangle her walker out, too. The walker had tennis balls on the rear legs. The tennis balls looked brand new, like they’d never been walked on before.

I probably walked an entire block in the same time it took her to get out of her car and walk 30 feet to the building. I was thinking that, for this woman, her walk from the car to the door of the building was a decently long commute. It required a decent amount of both time & effort. For her efforts, I’m definitely going to count her as a “fellow walker.” Walker sightings (to date): 9

Honks from Passersby (to date): 4 Got one Friday afternoon from an old friend.

P.S. You know those area Real Estate guides that you find in racks around town? Full-color, 50 pages plus? This morning, I found about 6 of them lying around the gazebo area downtown. All of them sopping wet. I picked up two & threw ‘em away. I didn’t get the others…for a reason. Someday I’ll share the reason—right here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

.429 Waving Average

This Morning's Weather report: Gentle, but Persistent Rain. Even still, I saw a guy using a leaf blower to clear a driveway. The especially weird part was, it actually seemed to be working!

I tried waving to everyone I passed this morning. Got 3 waves from 7 drivers (.429 average). One of these drivers honked instead of waved. It was nice, but it ruined my average :-)

Honks from passersby (to date): 3...Ride Offers (to date): 3

P.S. Picked up an empty ketchup sleeve? (Sonic)…just down the very wet hill behind the library.

P.P.S. I got to walk home for lunch yesterday with the whole family. As usual, it went slow…but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No Complaints

I’m a man of my word (see March 3rd entry). I accepted a ride yesterday, although I tried hard to avoid it. It was a coworker who was pulling out of the parking lot at about the same time I was walking past the parking lot. I was thinking, “If I can just make it to the corner of Main Street I’ll be safe. She wouldn’t stop and ask me for a ride on Main Street!” I had turned onto Main and taken about ten paces when I heard her yell…from behind me…at the corner I’d just passed… “Wanna ride?” I remembered my “homework” and said “Sure.” Thankfully she left the window down on my side the whole way. One reason I was enjoying my walk was the wind. It felt great!

I’ve been battling a sore ankle this week. I’ve even complained about it a time or two…in the privacy of my home. I didn’t want to bring it up online lest it sound like an attempt to gain sympathetic comments. Something I was reading yesterday by Joni Eareckson Tada made me feel especially bad about even private complaints. Tada’s been paralyzed from the waist down since she was a teenager (diving accident) and has prayed at times for healing. The physical healing hasn’t come though, which has led her to the (faithful) conclusion that “There are more important things in life than walking.” She believes that she wouldn’t know God, love God, or trust in Him nearly as much, if it were not for her wheelchair. Her thoughts made me wonder if—bad ankle and all—if I had it too easy. No more complaints.

Fellow Walker sightings (to date): 8

P.S. I picked up a white Styrofoam cup (Do they make Styrofoam in any other color?) with a blue straw from the alley behind the downtown pharmacy this morning. I could tell it’d been tossed around a bit in last night’s storm.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time Saver?

I tried to cut my morning commute in half today, and failed miserably. I was running late & decided to take the short route, which is as direct a route as I can manage, considering I can’t walk through houses or anything. My time savings? 2 lousy minutes. 7 ½ total minutes from house to office. I hate to use language like “lousy” but I was fairly disappointed. The shorter walk, evidently, has more of a psychological affect on my tardiness than actual ticks on a clock. Of course my question is, Is a two minute time savings worth the effort? I’m thinking, no.

P.S. Picked up what looked like a fragment from an ancient sheet of duct tape…in the campus commons area. There’s so much construction going on down there, it was likely left by one of the workers. I realized I don’t go through the commons often enough. I’m probably the last one around here to see the new wall that’s been installed near a popular walkway. It actually has some aesthetics built into it. Very nice!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bikers and Bear Hugs

I’m no sun worshipper, but yesterday I avoided shade like the plague. It was the perfect temp for soaking up plenty of rays without breaking a sweat—even when walking. This morning? A gentle rain. I took the long route anyway.

As you may have noticed, the focus of this blog, in large measure, is what can (and does) happen when I walk instead of drive to and from work. Two things from yesterday fit squarely in that category. I was on my way home for lunch & not thirty paces from the library I was hailed by a hardcore Harley driver, with a black leather coat & a black do rag of some kind. There’s probably a biker term for this kind of head gear, but I don’t know what it is. His helmet was hanging on his bike…it was one of those beanie style half-helmets. He was holding a cell phone & yelled, “Excuse me. Do you live here?” I said yes, and handing me his phone, he said, “Here. Talk to my son and find out where he is. And maybe you can explain it to me.” I found out that his son was on campus only a couple buildings away. I gave the biker dad some quick directions and continued my walk.

Everyone was giddy, it seemed, because of the weather. I had barely made it across Main Street when a student went out of his way to give me a hug—a great big hug, actually…right there on Main Street. It was a real pick-me-up. About a block later, I got my first honk of the year. It was a couple of students, bless their hearts. Windows down, they waved as they drove by. And at the end of the day, I got another honk from some folks I know. I’m lucky if I get two honks in a year! Two in one day? Like I said, “giddy.” I don’t necessarily encourage honks, but they let me know someone’s thinking of me. I’ll try to keep a running total. Honks from passersby: 2

Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 7

P.S. Found a thing o’ Chapstick on the steps in front of Hall Roland. Several inches away was its lid. I snagged both.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Haiti Update

Weather report (two words): Borderline Jacket
Could’ve almost walked to work this morning sans jacket, but not quite. It’s encouraging, though, that I was actually tempted to go without one.

Knowing that much of the week’s supposed to be rainy, I tried to take the long route to work. At one point, I was cutting through a parking lot when one of the school’s professors parked practically in my path. I’m glad he did. In my new role as a “social capitalist” (see last week’s entries), I decided to cut my commute short & take the direct route to campus alongside him. We visited about his recent trip to Haiti. He said things were looking up there, but still made him feel like such a small person trying to hold back a huge tidal wave (i.e., overwhelming). I needed the reminder that there is still a lot of suffering & need in Haiti. I had almost forgotten. And getting the reminder NOT from a news correspondent was especially refreshing. It was an opportunity that (I don’t think) would’ve happened if I hadn’t been walking.

P.S. Found two wrappers this morning: 1> gum (Orbit) and 2> the corner of a candy bar…near the back lawn of the library. I promise to explain someday why I bothered picking 'em up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Social Capital #3

Would’ve taken the long route this morning, but was technically late for work even before I brushed my teeth. The weather was crisp, but sunny as all get out. Beautiful.

If running into people you haven’t seen in a while is increasing social capital, then I’ve definitely had some success this week. It’s happened twice, and both because I was walking, not driving. I mentioned Tues. one of these two old friends. He offered me a ride. The second was someone who seems to make a living walking. I see him everywhere, usually when I’m in the car & I’m driving on by. This time, though, since I was walking and he was too, we had a quick exchange. I commented on his custom-designed walking stick. It was actually more like a staff (21st century style).

The real proof, though, that walking can boost social capital came yesterday. I was on my way home for lunch when I noticed an across the street neighbor (aka, Sears) coming out his front door. The timing couldn’t have been better. He (very) slowly came down his front steps with a cane in hand. He said he was out for a walk around the block…to help with his knee surgery rehab. He plans to return to work (at Sears) on Monday, if he can manage it. I told him I’d been thinking about him, which is true.

Why am I so encouraged about this brief encounter? It’s mainly because of this man (who lives alone) that I began this social capital focus on Monday. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked past his house this year with guilt for not taking the time to simply knock on his door and say hello, see how he was doing, or ask if he needed anything. Confession time: Over two months ago I had heard a word or two about his operation & never made the short walk up his steps to find out more. Honestly, I’d still know nothing about it if I’d been on wheels and not on foot.

Fellow Walker sightings: still 6 I’ve decided not to count people who are seemingly walking strictly for exercise. It’s certainly admirable…just different. So my running total will keep track of those actually walking to get somewhere.

P.S. Went from the largest litter removal (yesterday) to the smallest (today)—a paper cover for a straw, which was all crumpled on the sidewalk in front of Hall Roland.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not Going to Church

The walk home yesterday was weird, to say the least. I unintentionally got caught in the massive rush to get to church—only it wasn’t my church. I was walking past one of the largest congregations in town, like I do every day. But I rarely pass by it at 5:40ish on a Wednesday.

I closed up the library at 5:30 yesterday (which I hardly ever do) and began my walk home. I knew I might encounter a few stragglers who were running late for what I thought was the 5:30 service at this local congregation. But there were more than a few stragglers…there must’ve been a hundred, at least. College students, non-college students, young, old…streaming in. I did my best to steer clear of the largest concentration of people. When I got to the street that runs alongside the church, I found myself waiting to cross with the wife of our university chancellor. I said hello. We crossed. She walked over to the church entrance, and I did not. It felt strange. I’m used to going against the flow of the world, but not against the flow of churchgoers. I felt like explaining to everyone I passed, “Yunno, I actually worship somewhere else, and we meet at 7:00. No offense.” Just me being hypersensitive to my surroundings.

I actually stopped one of the last “stragglers” I ran into and asked, “The church service over there starts at 5:30, doesn’t it?” He said, “No. 5:45.” “Oh,” I said. “That explains a lot.” And then he invited me to come. I politely declined and continued home.

P.S. I promise I don’t have it in for Burger King…I actually worked at a BK in college. But for the third consecutive day I picked up BK-related trash. And each time the find’s been more substantial. This morning it was a whole bag of remains—still had the receipt taped to it (1 Dbl Cheeseburger & 1 Large Fries, purchased the day before at 11:15 PM). The bag was in the middle of the street, just around the corner from the house. I couldn’t help put pick it up.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Going My Way?

Took the long route to work this morning (up North Ave.) and realized half way there that long routes and winter don’t mix.

While walking, I occasionally get ride offers from passersby, but never two in one day—that is, until yesterday. The offers came just before and just after lunch. As usual, the rides were offered by people I know fairly well. Never has a stranger pulled up beside me and asked, “Going my way?” I’ll never forget the time an older acquaintance (in her 60s) stopped in the middle of Main Street (which is truly a main street), with cars lining up behind her, to ask if I’d like a ride. I declined, lest someone think I actually knew this crazy (but very thoughtful) driver.

I passed on yesterday’s offers, too. The after-lunch offer came from someone who may’ve mainly wanted to catch up. It’d been six weeks since we’d seen each other. In retrospect, I wonder if I should’ve accepted. It could’ve been a good “social capital” thing. I wouldn’t have gotten as much exercise or fresh air, but I would’ve made a connection with a good Christian friend who I’ve been missing.

So with a bit of lingering regret from yesterday, I’m giving myself some homework. I’ll accept the next ride offer I get—no matter who’s offering or where I’m heading. Ride Offers this year: 2

Fellow walker sightings: 6

P.S. For the 2nd consecutive day, picked up a Burger King artifact. It was a drink cup (large?), found downtown on the gazebo lawn.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Social Capital #2

Weather report: Rain mixed with snow. I was planning on taking the long route for a second day in a row, but was running late & the hand I was using to hold the umbrella was already numb from the cold.

I’ve concluded that there’s something to this Walking-Increases-Social-Capital thing. I was walking back to work after lunch yesterday…rounded the corner…and spotted my neighbor unloading groceries from her car. I was able to walk right up to her and introduce myself in a perfectly natural way. I’ve decided that although I want to get to know my neighbors better, I’m not going to go way out of my way, like knocking on doors or anything. That’d be a bit forward.

This is one half of the neighbor I referred to yesterday as “duplex.” She’s been living next door for several months and we’d never met. One thing’s for sure, we’d still be complete strangers today if I had been driving back to the office yesterday. I would’ve given a subtle wave at most and kept on going. So what did I find out? She’s not new to town, just new to our neighborhood. And her granddaughter seems to want to go to college anywhere but here in town, which we both agreed was perfectly normal. If nothing else comes of this 5-day experiment, it will have still been worthwhile. Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 5

P.S. Thanks to all drivers who (purposely) avoid driving too close to the curb on a rainy day, so as not to splash folks on the sidewalk. At least one person was looking out for me this morning. I appreciate him driving practically in the opposite lane as he passed me.

P.P.S. Picked up a wedge-shaped box from a Burger King slice of pie…off the lawn behind the library.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Social Capital #1

Took the extra long route today, with a major detour through downtown. It was good for about 300 extra steps. The change of scenery was nice, too. I was reading someone’s online comments the other day about “Why Walking Matters.” One supposed reason is “Increased Social Capital.” How so? Walking, unlike driving, promotes more face-to-face interaction with neighbors. Makes sense to me.

I’m putting the theory to the test this week. I started this morning by formulating a target zone for my face-to-face efforts. I typically pass 15 houses on my way to campus each day…7 of which are especially important to me. For one, these houses are the closest to my own. My goal this week is to learn something new about at least one of these 7 neighbors—not by simple observation, but by meaningful interaction. Here’s a shorthand way I’ll be referring to each “target”…1. Sears, 2. Meals on Wheels, 3. Duplex, 4. Nice Lawn, 5. Abandoned, 6. Beekeeper, 7. Yellow House. Most mornings these 7 neighbors are either off to work, still in bed, or just hibernating. My best opportunities may be later in the day. I’ll record my social successes and failures right here. Stay tuned.

P.S. Snagged a 2-ply, industrial strength piece of paper towel from the street in front of (you guessed it) Hall Roland Hall. The sidewalk area of this dorm seems to be a magnet for litter. A student saw me picking up the trash & for a change, I didn’t mind at all.