Small Wonders: Take a walk and witness the world

People have a lot of reasons for hating me.

My political, religious and social views. My false air of superiority masking deep insecurities. My breath. A hairline intent on disobeying the toll of time.

But, perhaps utmost is this: I have a one-song commute.

From my driveway to a noncompact parking place at my office, I average one song. And if I hit the lights just right, I don't even finish that.

Hate me if you must. My co-workers do. But a one-song commute isn't always a good thing.

Sure, I save gas and don't spend endless hours in gridlock. But I also can't call in late because “traffic is horrible today.” And there's little time to decompress after a hard day at the office with such a short drive home.

I do get to spend more time with the family, but I do them little good if my mind is still back at the office fretting over cell M-132 of that spreadsheet I was dutifully populating 10 minutes ago.

So whenever possible, I walk to work. Beyond taking my commute to a manageable 25 minutes, there are other benefits.

Besides finally utilizing iPod playlists and podcasts or Pandora stations I've created but don't have time to listen to, walking to and from work has shown me many things I either don't see or take for granted.

Now that summer seems to have given up her stranglehold, there are leaves on the ground. The only sign of seasonal change in Southern California.

You know what else you see a lot of on the ground? Spent gum. Little black circles eternally sealed to the sidewalk with a molecular bond NASA can't figure out. Everywhere. It's disgusting and amazing at the same time.

You have to watch out for sprinklers. For every yard and building watering its lawn, there's at least one sprinkler head misdirected across the sidewalk and into the street. As if concrete needed any more help to grow.

Have you heard the story of the columns shaped like the Seven Dwarfs at the corporate building on the Walt Disney Studios lot? Easily viewable from Alameda Avenue — Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy, hold the roof up. Legend has it Walt spent everything he had on the 1937 release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” his first feature-length animated movie. If it bombed, so would Disney. Those Dwarfs literally held the roof up.

Past Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and nearby medical offices, the infirm and sickly make their way in for treatment. Every day I see the same used heart-monitor pad discarded on the sidewalk in front of one building. It's been there for months waiting for a gust of wind or downpour to take it away. It's a reminder that I can walk to work; a reminder I can walk.

The restaurant formerly known as Chadney's — man, do I miss that place — seems to be in a forever-stalled state of rebirth, like so many buildings, businesses and people I know. The marquee proudly announces upcoming interviews for open staff positions — last August.

And now I am thankful I have a job to walk to.

That homeless lady, barefoot, carrying a water bottle filled with something other than water, smiles at me, looks me right in the eye and smiles warmly and sincerely, unlike any of the people I pass who are walking from a home to work.

Thankful yet again.

So many cars rushing past, their bumper stickers telling us what to think, who to vote for and how to be happy. Kind of like Facebook. If the mysteries of the world could be solved in the space of a bumper sticker or Twitter update, I'd be a rich man. I should post that.

I am convinced the most dangerous place in a city isn't a dark alley, bad neighborhood or City Hall. It is any lighted intersection. Look both ways when using a crosswalk, folks, because drivers sure don't.

Dead snail. Dead bird. Slumbering spirits on their way to and from.

So much dust waiting to be washed away by autumn's first tears.

So, here's my challenge to you this week. Since walking to work isn't possible for everyone, drive all but one mile. Park and walk the rest of the way. Do this just once each week, but not to save gas, reduce greenhouse gases or improve cardiovascular performance (though those are all worthy reasons).

Do it to see the things you miss; all the real-world things that flash past your car window unseen, unheard and unsmelled, as you seal yourself apart from the world around you each day.

In the immortal words of Vanilla Ice, “Stop. Collaborate and listen.”

PATRICK CANEDAY hates liver. Contact him at

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