Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Transit


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.



Ron Scheer said...

Small towns are the original convenience store. Just the basics, and everything's within walking distance - providing the wind chill is tolerable.

Bill Kirton said...

One of my memories of the times I spent in the USA was a feeling of amazement at the fact that people didn't walk. (This was in New England - mainly small places in Rhode Island.) Even in small parking lots, surrounded by various stores, they'd drive from store to store to get the things they wanted. My wife and I used to walk from home to get the shopping and soon realised that pedestrians come pretty low on the list of residents that need to be catered for. This isn't a criticism, just an observation. And it may well be that the only reason we walk more over here is that you need to take out a second mortgage to buy a few gallons of petrol

Linda G. said...

Montana sounds great! Well, except for that whole horrendously long winter thing y'all got going on there. Talk about inconvenient...;)

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Linda & Ron: You had to go and point out the cold, didn't you?

Bill: Actually, it amazes me too, the lengths to which people around here will go to avoid walking. I told my co-worker last summer that I wasn't sure why this town has sidewalks, because I seem to be the only one who uses them. I've had people stop and offer me a ride while walking to the convenience store four blocks from my office.

Juliet said...

Kari Lynn, you're mostly right about cities. Having lived or worked in NYC for the last 18 yrs, I can get ANYTHING I'd ever want or need. Which is nice but sometimes the day to day stuff can be a hassle until you figure out the most efficient ways to get things done.

Susan Adrian said...

I was just saying this yesterday, when I had to go renew my driver's license at the DMV. It took 5 minutes...and that was WITH waiting for one person in front of me, at lunchtime. I ordered a washer/dryer on Monday and had them in my house installed by 10 am Tuesday. I got my hair cut and was the only person in the place.

We always say Montana's tagline should be: NO WAITING.