Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I had to run to the drug store. And by run, of course I mean jump in my car and drive, although on days when the wind isn’t over thirty miles an hour and the sidewalks don’t resemble Alaskan ice fields, I can actually run my errands. Oh, okay, walk. From my office in the center of town, there is no location within the city limits that I can’t walk to and from in the length of a lunch hour, if I keep up a brisk pace.
But yesterday there was both wind and glaciated sidewalks, so I drove. I was a little annoyed when I had to park three spaces down from Drug Mart, instead of my usual spot ten feet from the door. And there was someone at the counter ahead of me, so I had to wait at least three or four minutes for my prescription. That’s what I get for shopping at the busiest time of day, but I was still back at the office with most of my lunch hour to spare.
I just spent four days along the Tennessee-Kentucky border, visiting my brother at Fort Campbell. Now I realize for some of you, Nashville is a mere village, but my experience there pretty much mirrored what I’ve encountered in any of the metropolitan areas I’ve visited. The larger the city, and the more surrounded a person is by all of the modern conveniences, the more inconvenient it is to access them.
First off, you have to get there. This requires, depending on the size of your city, either navigating a maze of streets and highways that seem to have been designed to be anything but convenient, or adjusting your schedule to that of a train or bus. In either case, you must take into account the seething masses of other people who are also attempting to travel to and from the same or similar locations, which means adjusting your schedule yet again to account for traffic or crowds. The larger the city, the more your actions become controlled by the mob and the transit authority.
In Nashville, we did the usual tourist thing…the Opryland hotel, then a stroll around downtown, with all of its kitschy shops and restaurants and bars. I could have spent hours wandering from one to another, soaking up the music. That’s the sort of thing you just don’t get in a small town very often. In both cases, though, we had to park farther from our destination than if I walked from my office to the far end of Main Street. And it cost money.
Same for the grocery stores and malls, with the added benefit of also having to remember which of the two hundred white SUV’s in the parking lot was ours. Between that and the lines at the checkout, a quick dash to pick up a gallon of milk was a minimum of forty five minutes.
And the post office? Suffice to say I bribed a soldier behind me to mail my priority envelope so I didn’t have to spend half of one day of my vacation memorizing wanted posters.
I suppose you get used to it, and you get more efficient at juggling bus schedules and dodging rush hour. In the biggest cities, you can find a neighborhood where most of what you need is available within walking distance, so you don’t have to fight the transit wars every time you want a cup of coffee.
I think I’ll stick with all the inconveniences of small town life, like parking across the street instead of at the curb directly in front of the door to my bank.