Walk This Way: In Praise of Footpower
How far did you walk today? If it was from your front door to your car door and then your car door to your office door then you are a lazy slug.
Sorry, that's not nice. I fear that a year living in England without a car and now trading a Metro parking lot space for a 20-minute walk to the subway is in danger of turning me into a militant pedestrian.
There are lots of good reasons to ambulate bipedally. For starters, it lets you lord it over dogs, who can walk, but require four legs. Of course, it's also good for your health and good for the environment. But what I like best about pedestrianism is that it lets you see the world around you. Now, I wish I could report that the world around you is full of glorious nature but instead it's full of inglorious man--or, more accurately, inglorious man's trash. It's easy to ignore how junky our landscape is when you're zipping over it at 50 mph. (Though that it might be junky can probably be intuited from the state of the inside of your car. I mean, really.)
But even trash has a certain poetry about it. Just as our ancient forebears knew every leaf and vine in the jungle, so modern-day man knows all the trash he encounters. For example, for weeks I have been passing this flattened ovoid of metal on my walks up and down Georgia Avenue:
I think it's a catalytic converter cover. It gives a musical chink-chink whenever a vehicle runs over it, as this Metro bus is about to do. I doubt it will ever be picked up by county street cleaners. Eventually it will become one with the asphalt, ground in so deeply that future generations, upon uncovering it buried under layers of our vanished world, will think it some 21st-century fossil and marvel at the invertebrate that could have created such an odd shell.
When you walk a lot you notice certain patterns, not just in traffic or the behavior of drivers, but in the detritus on the ground. I see a surprising number of these odd dental floss pick things:
I photographed that one on Capitol Hill, near the Library of Congress Madison Building, but I see them everywhere. It raises the question: Who picks his teeth while he's walking down the street? (I don't even bother asking why someone wouldn't put that in a trash can. Last night in Southwest I stepped over a used disposable diaper, all wrapped up like a parcel bomb.)
For me the discarded dental floss pick is brethren to the tennis shoes dangling from a telephone line: one of the mysteries of the modern age. Put on some walking shoes and explore them.
Have you encountered any mysteries? Photographed any assemblages of rubbish that rise nearly to the level of modern art? Share your thoughts in our Comments or e-mail me the results of your photo safari.
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