My point of destination when I started my walk was Church Avenue. For those of you unfamiliar to the world of Brooklyn, Church Avenue was a major thoroughfare running about five miles through what was at that time known simply as Flatbush. Today, however, I think the area names change every five blocks or so. But that’s irrelevant.
As I approached Church Avenue walking south on Ocean Parkway, a voice calling my name rang out from a third floor window of one of the many apartment buildings that make up Ocean Parkway. The voice was that of a relatively new acquaintance named Lloyd who had relocated back to the east from Oregon, where he had been living with his widowed father and younger brother. I had been introduced to this former Duck by his older brother, Vince, who wanted more age appropriate friends for his young brother. I had known Vince both as a competitor and a teammate in various athletic venues and it was Vince’s hope that Lloyd would be a fit with my crew.
Apparently, Vince had decided to move out of the apartment he had graciously shared with his younger brother and they were in need of some moving assistance. Not having anything of great importance on my agenda that day, I allowed myself to become mover number three. The move passed without incident and Lloyd ended up with his own apartment some 3000 miles away from where he lived only 12 months earlier.
Some fifteen years later (just about nine years ago) I was finally persuaded to move from the city to the sprawl (by Brooklyn standards, anyway) of Monmouth County. It didn’t take long to acclimate myself to this active suburban lifestyle which, when it all boils down, is not that much different than that of the busy urban lifestyle. You work, you take your kids to school and little league and CYO basketball, and to travel sports games in far away towns. You go to PTO meetings, you go bowling and play softball, and you meet your friends at a pub to watch “the” game of the week. Take into account that people are people wherever you go, with their individual habits and idiosyncrasies and biases, and their funny accents, the transition was not all that difficult.
The major difference in all this lifestyle relocation is the sprawl of it all. No longer was the distance between these social points measured in blocks, it is measured in miles and half-miles and quarter miles. So it became easy, to the point of habit, to simply jump in the car for the simplest of jaunts. Not only do we drive the ½ mile to the local sports field or rec center, we drive through our bank (where we wait in line in our car as opposed to waiting on line inside the bank, which is oftentimes faster), we drive through for meals and even for our groceries. We’re even prohibited from getting out of our car to pump our own gas.
Life was becoming a point to point existence; home to work, work to home; home to school and back; home to supermarket and back; home to the ball field or gym or rec center or dance studio and back. This, of course, is not terribly different from the urban lifestyle from which I had hailed and it is certainly a way of life which you could make work. It is at these social points that we make our acquaintances and foster new friendships. And as these acquaintances and friendships overlap at different social points, meaningful relationships are forged.
But what’s happening between these points? As we drive to our next stop we acknowledge our neighbor mowing his lawn with a friendly honk of the horn or offer a quick hand wave to that familiar face from the PTO passing in the opposite direction in her car. Life in a passing lane.
And then it dawned on me that what was missing from my social diet was the pedestrian interaction that no longer takes place between the points, the interaction which makes up the fiber in our social diet; the type of interaction which makes you the third mover or the caring ear or shoulder; the type of interaction which replaces the friendly honk with a friendly voice; a voice that may have the answer to your tree fungus and crab grass problems.
Over the past year, the energy crisis has come crashing into our everyday lives. It is no longer something that we only read about in the newspapers. The cost of energy has had a severe inflationary impact on the budget of every working American, even though the Government discounts the rising cost of energy from its inflation index.
So, with the weather settling nicely into spring conditions and gas prices making a run at $3 a gallon for the second time in 12 months, maybe it’s time we all put a little social fiber in our diets. Let’s not be so quick to jump in the car the next time we need to make a bank deposit or buy a quart of milk. Instead of loading your little leaguer or soccer player into the car, take the kid for a walk to the field. You may be amazed at the wealth of information you can get from your kids during a 15 minute walk. (Now that’s Fiber!) And think of the wisdom you can impart to the child in those same 15 minutes. And you never know who you might meet along the way. Maybe someone whose life you can impact in ways you never would have thought; or maybe someone who could impact yours in the same way.
What better time than now to decide to stop living life in a passing lane.
BTW, Lloyd is now someone I consider a Life Long Friend. We’ve vacationed together, participated in each other’s weddings, attended a dozen or so home openers at Shea, as well as playoff games and Met - Yankee World Series games. We’ve played innumerable rounds of golf and some good softball. And when it was time to relocate, the house I bought I bought from Lloyd.
You never know where a short five block walk could lead!
Thank you for the great tale Peter!
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