Thursday, August 26, 2010


I normally try to recount events from my walk TO work, not FROM it. Sometimes, though, I just can’t help myself. On the way home from work today, I walked a quarter of a block—down one of the busiest streets in town—in an embrace with another man! I didn’t initiate it, mind you…I was just following his lead. His arm was across by shoulders & mine was across his. This “other man” is one of those guys who literally couldn’t care less what others think of him or whether someone’s staring or whatever. It’s just the way he’s wired, but not me. His fearlessness rubbed off on me a little while we walked. At one point I almost thought, “So what if someone drives by and sees us.” That thought quickly faded when a couple of guys (blue collar types) pulled up in their work truck at the corner we were approaching. They hardly noticed us, if at all. Whew.

At the corner, my friend had to continue straight ahead and I had to “hang a ralphie.” That’s when our hug-on-the-go ended. Two seconds later an older couple in a truck pulled up and asked if I knew how to get to Mifflin (a small town about 20 minutes away). I said, “Uh, let me see. Um, I sure do.” I gave them some directions but mustn’t have been convincing. I’d been talking through the window with the woman. The man (behind the wheel) was obviously not going to put his trust in someone who paused so long before getting on with it. He basically said to his wife, “Let’s go up here to Main Street and see what we can find out.” What’s wrong with that, you say? Main Street was in the exact opposite direction I suggested they go. Oh, well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sweaty Protest

I never walk home for lunch when it’s in the upper 90s. Why? One word: sweat. I’d have to change clothes, towel off, sit in front of a fan (on High) for 5 minutes…then squeeze in lunch before heading back to the library. I always wimp out in August, getting as many rides to and fro as possible—usually from Julie. She actually offered me one today…just before noon. In fact, I had even asked her for one when I left the house this morning. “Hon,” I said. “It’s gonna be close to 100 today, so I might need a ride home later, if possible.” No sweat for me.

My attitude changed, though, at the office…when I almost accidently discovered that 54 years earlier—on this day—tons of people were voluntarily walking through the streets of Montgomery, Alabama in 99 degree weather. They were walking to work. Walking to school. Walking home for lunch. Walking when they could’ve been riding. It was the latter (hotter) half of the Bus Boycott. Sure, a number of people hitched rides from friends and passersby. But most walked. And, I imagine, most sweated.

In their honor, I decided to walk home (instead of ride) for lunch. On my way I contemplated—tried as hard as I could to feel—what it would’ve been like to be an African-American man or woman walking in protest of racial injustice. I wondered if it wouldn’t have felt quite as hot, knowing that your reasons for walking were so noble. Would 99 degrees have felt more like 95? Or would it have seemed hotter…as you thought of the bigotry that led to the boycott & not knowing if the peaceful protest would even make a difference? For me, today, the walk seemed a bit cooler. It almost seemed shorter. It even seemed slightly less sweaty. I can only hope it was the same for those admirable souls (soles) in the Summer of 1956.

P.S. Too hot to pick up trash. :-)