We embark on our routine hour-long walk at day break. Only this time it is in the US.
© Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.
We are out of home by 6 am. “Right or left?” hubby asks. “Any,” I say and turn right. Hearing my answer he turns left! We turn back, laugh and choose one direction. Not that it matters. Really! Very few ‘walkers’ are around. It is a pleasure to walk along the walkways – neatly paved, clean and safe. Luminous green lines at some points catch our attention – on scrutiny, we realize that is to warn pedestrians about the uneven spots on the walkway (may be due to protruding roots of a tree) so that they don’t trip over - day or night.
The landscaped gardens of the houses lining both sides of the streets lay out a feast for our eyes – as we walk, we savor the neatly mowed green lawns, with glistening droplets fresh from the sprinklers, colorful flowers, trimmed shrubs, loaded apple / pear trees, grape vines... It is really admirable that not even kids ever entertain thoughts of plucking the pretty flowers or juicy fruits. It is tough even for us to resist the temptation! We restrict our interest to sizing them up as we take a walk along the same neighborhood once a week. Well, the front yard of most houses has a soccer ball or bike or toys lying around – reminders of the kids’ activities of the previous day. Not to worry – no one dares to lay hands on them. They’ll wait for the kids to retrieve them.
I remember the host of golden sunflowers, ‘tossing their heads in a sprightly dance’ in a patch close to a trail. It is no man’s land - the withered grass around is enough testimony; these sunflowers are the last of the survivors. I go armed with scissors early next morning to snip the flowers and bring them home to adorn our vase. The expression of my family and the court martial about the location of the flowers are pointers of disapproval! What is admirable is that out there, no one covets what is not theirs!
We never come across a coke can or plastic bottle or a carry bag tossed on to the road! On the weekly garbage day, the huge green plastic bins (for recyclable trash) and blue ones (for regular trash) are lined in front of the houses all along the road. Huge dump trucks come in the morning to collect the garbage separately - mechanically raising and tipping each bin into it to empty them. But what is noteworthy is that the bins never raise a stink in spite of holding the whole week’s trash! In fact we find a portable restroom at a construction site and choose to walk as far away from it in a bid to escape the expected obnoxious odor. We sniff with apprehension and are pleasantly surprised to smell nothing! How nice!
A few cars slowly drive past us in the residential areas as people start trickling out for work. Whenever we have to cross a street, by habit we watch out for cars. But we don’t really need to as they have the stop sign to honor and honor they will - be it night or day, small street or main road! Even if we choose to give them way and halt, they give us a royal treatment and wave us to go on. Out there, pedestrians have the right of the road!
When we are on the main roads we notice interesting signs, “Road work ahead – Business accesses open” or “Road closed – 10 July – 1 Aug” (so the regular users can choose alternate routes) or “Be prepared to stop. Road work ahead.” (so caring)! The warnings help drivers plan their route to reach their destination in time – no wonder they can predict driving times to the T! While walking on the main roads we can’t dream of crossing anywhere we feel like – no sir, we will be penalized for jay walking! What with the stream of speeding cars, it is just unthinkable – if we really value our life! So we have no option but to walk up to the junction with the traffic lights, press the button for pedestrian crossing signal and await our ‘walk’ signal. So normally we stick to the neighborhoods that don’t require us to cross main roads.
We encounter very few joggers on the way – most of them with ear plugs, iPod and a bottle of water. They greet us with a ‘hi’ and a smile though we are total strangers. Sometimes we even exchange one-liners on the weather! Then there are those regular dog-walkers armed with a plastic bag to scoop the poop of their pet! Before we try to step out of the walkway to get out of the way of the canines, they step out of our path. Not that we have to worry – the dogs are always on leash and generally well behaved. There are occasions when we have some dog barking his head off in his enclosed backyard as we pass a house. I also remember a dog once rushing out of the yard barking aloud. We freeze – but only for a moment – the lady of the house comes chasing and chastising the dog and profusely apologizing to us and takes him in much to our relief…..
We return home after a refreshing and aesthetically rewarding walk which makes us feel good!