The picture I should have taken to go with this post is a sign on the fence of our old neighborhood cemetery that says NO DOGS ALLOWED and underneath someone has written in marker “fuck ‘em.”
For EVERY DAY OF AUGUST SO FAR (ha!), I’ve walked the 5-6 mile round trip walk to a grocery store across town. I didn’t HAVE to do this; there are closer stores, and we have a car, but I really do need to take a long walk every day, and I am bad at walking for the sake of walking. I can walk because the place I am moving around in is beautiful, or I can walk with an errand as a goal. In town, it’s mostly the latter. Yesterday I was wearing a sundress and got a little burnt across the shoulders, and I was called at in the obligatory way that dudes have to call at anyone wearing a dress. Today I had a backpack for the coffee and vegetables I was going to pick up at the store, and people gave me such sad faces on the street, “oh I’m so sorry you have to WALK to the STORE on a hot day” faces, which I guess I understand, but they don’t make those faces at people who are jogging, you know? I want to stop and explain, “no, I’m really not angry or sad to be walking - it’s fine. They sell coffee at my corner store. I am making a choice here.”
On the walk to the store, a man and two small kids in a motor boat seemed to be stuck in a shallow bit in the middle of the Grand River. The kids had life vests and sun hats; the man was shirtless. It wasn’t a comfortable distance to yell and ask if they needed me to call someone, but I slowed down to try to figure that out, and they seemed okay; they weren’t trying to flag anyone, but they also weren’t trying to solve the problem. They seemed to be waiting for help that was on the way. They were gone when I crossed the bridge again.
On the walk home, a woman in a big, expensive vehicle pulled out into the cross-walk and stopped, waiting to turn, making it impossible for me to cross without walking into oncoming traffic. This happens a lot, of course, mostly because people don’t see you; about half the time people find a way not to be apologetic when they are inconsiderate of pedestrians, sometimes because they really don’t care, but I think mostly because they are embarrassed that they were rude and so compound the rudeness by trying to justify their action. People ignore you, or they gesture through the window like it’s your fault. In this case, the woman’s window was down, and she was staring right at me; she did not look like the kind of person who would pretend not to see me or pretend it was my fault that she was parked where she was; she looked like the type who would back up and say “I’m sorry.” As I walked closer and she didn’t, but kept making direct, intense eye contact with me, I finally said, not even in an aggressive way, but because I thought she really didn’t realize, “hey, you’re in the cross walk,” and she just kept staring at me and shrugged her shoulders. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen an adult shrug her shoulders the way that woman shrugged. It made me feel vulnerable and in danger to a depth I can’t really explain.
Walking in town on hot weekend days reminds me of times in my life when I have lived happily alone but dreaded weekends, dreaded the possibility that I would need to go out and get something and have to face all the people who had turned my public space into a recreation space it felt like I was not supposed to enter, all sweaty and goal-oriented.