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What I Really Know About Long Walks: When the Pedestrian Is the Alien

The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Below, reader Skip Lowery of Ormond Beach, Florida, shares what he really knows about long walks.

In my northeast Florida neighborhood—a neighborhood made up of young families, blue-collar workers and a few ex-teachers like myself—a lone walker is an anomaly. People here drive to the local convenience store for a loaf of bread, even though the store is only a few blocks away—and never mind rising gas prices.

The few lone walkers I do see aren’t doing it for pleasure. Some power-walk to lose weight, others walk their dogs, but no one seems to be walking for the sake of walking. In fact, a person walking alone—especially an older male dressed in shorts and a sports shirt—is looked upon with suspicion.

Once during my standard four-mile trek, I came to a street where two children, a boy and a girl, were playing. When they saw me, the boy asked, “Did your car break down?” When I’m walking nearer to my house, neighbors stop to ask if I want a ride. A friend suggested I wear a jogging outfit. That way people will assume I’m walking between intervals of running, which is acceptable behavior.

I don’t know if my experience is symptomatic of a failing in this country or not, but it does reinforce something that writer Ray Bradbury said: When the pedestrian, the natural man, is the alien, we live in a science-fiction nightmare.

Yeah. Maybe it is time to buy the jogging clothes.

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