“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” – Steven Wright
That is mostly true, but I’m pretty sure I can’t walk to Japan. Not because of the distance involved but because it is an island. As much as I like to think I’m perfect, my water walking skills are strangely underdeveloped.
But the larger point is accurate. Plenty of people walk the entire 2,181-mile length of the Appalachian Trail. Others have walked coast to coast. Further treks are possible for anyone with the determination to undertake them. So it’s true that “walking distance” isn’t really an objective distance at all but rather a personal preference.
For a long time our preference was to walk. We didn’t own our first car until the age of 32. Five years later, the thing had a whopping 11,000 miles on it. Walking is how we got just about everywhere. Driving to the store for some milk fell in the same category as flying to Paris for dinner: things that never happened.
Then we moved out of the city. Now we take the car everywhere. We’ve discovered that much of the U.S. is designed to maximize distances between things. We regularly use the phrase “Sprawl Y’all” as shorthand for the way southern and western cities grow forever outward.
To accommodate the sprawl, and the cars it necessitates, drive-through windows are everywhere and for everything: prepared food, groceries, drug store items, financial services, dry cleaning, even liquor. We’re fast approaching the point where people never need to leave their car. Can Wall-E type lethargy be far behind?
Walking in this environment isn’t impossible, but it sure is inconvenient.
Old habits die hard, but they do die. Just today I caught myself jumping in the car to drive someplace I could walk in ten minutes. I never thought I’d become one of those people who considers a long walk to be what you take when a store parking lot is half full.
I can’t say I’m particularly pleased with this latest development.