Years back, I took my car to the dealer for an oil change and because any work done at a dealership takes forever, I decided to walk to the nearby Subway for lunch. I knew that it would be farther than it seemed, but decided to go for it. I didn’t live in a pedestrian-friendly city, so crossing six lanes in 96 degree heat was a little more stressful than you’d think.
Though the quickest way may have been to walk down US 41, I decided not to risk a driver texting and veering off the road just enough to send me flying through the air. I walked through the for-sale car lot and down the back road to the crosswalk. The asphalt radiated heat around my flip flop-clad feet. I could feel my face melting and tried to pick up the pace, but decided walking fast would only make me sweat more. Cars whizzing past me, I made my way to the crosswalk button and felt somewhat like a prostitute while standing on the small corner. I was standing on a patch of bright white sidewalk in a weed and asphalt laden area. The sun was blinding me as I watched the traffic. I felt as if all eyes were on me, the lone human out of her protective bubble of steel. At the signal, I stumbled a little in my flops on the gravel, but kept moving. Making it to the Subway parking lot, I felt like an anomaly; the only walkers in that town are usually on drugs, homeless or in some other shady situation. I ordered and sat down alone to eat. I used to do everything alone and was not one to worry about eating by myself, but there I was out in the open. The shop seemed to be full of men on their lunch breaks; blue and white collars alike, some on their own and some with co-workers. I felt as if I were being watched.
When we enter this world, we drool, make godawful faces, fart with abandon, shovel things into our mouths as we figure out how to nourish ourselves and crap publicly. Somewhere along the lines, we get to a point where even eating politely becomes embarrassing, or slightly tripping in the street makes us feel like kids again.
I couldn’t quite look out the window because there was a poster blocking my view. I finished and reapplied my lipstick in the bathroom. (“I may start sweating again as soon as I exit the building,” I thought, “but I’ll be wearing my lipstick, dammit. We’re not talking about camping here.”) Out I went and made it to the same crosswalk. This time I really felt as though I was being watched and was suddenly acutely aware of the 6-inch sub bloating my belly, so I adjusted my posture. I made it across and then heard a whistle and a catcall of some sort. (I never look or pay attention to whistles, yells, “hey you’s” or anything else other than my name or a polite “excuse me.”) It was, for a second, flattering, but at the same time, I felt really vulnerable, like they knew I was secretly a car-driver and not some savvy adventurer. I grabbed my purse a little tighter while envisioning a van pulling up with some creep jumping out to chloroform me…too much Dateline.
Getting back to the dealership lot, I was immediately asked if I needed any help. It was shocking to the salesperson that I would have left the building on foot while my car was being serviced. They expected customers to be at their mercy and I wasn’t.
In this mundane adventure I was both the observer and the observed. I saw a microcosm of bigger things happening in my life at the time. If you spend enough time alone, you notice the big things, the small things, and how they’re all interconnected. If you’re lucky, you notice where you fit into this picture or that you, in fact, do not fit in and that it’s time to move on.