On Walking to Work

For most of my career as a developer – say, nine of the past twelve years – I have lived within two miles of my workplace. Cybernet, BBK/PeopleDesign and now, Cynergy. On heavy traffic days it is actually faster for me to walk to work than to drive. Even on good days, driving saves me, at best, ten minutes in each direction. When weather permits, I ride my bike.

But I like best to walk. Especially in the morning, when the city is still waking up. The best days are in the cold parts of the year when the sun is just hitting the tops of the highest trees and buildings. Those are also the days when I walk home after dark.

Biking is more efficient, certainly, but – weather aside – I trust the drivers on the road less than during brighter parts of the year. There are fewer bikers from November through March, so drivers are even less aware of them (us) than usual. I can then choose to slalom quickly on the streets, slowly on the sidewalk, or just walk.

Currently I am exactly a mile and a half from work. The walk takes a little less than half an hour each way. Call it a total of fifty minutes a day, for three miles. Fifteen miles a week, and slightly over four hours. Sometimes I will stop for coffee at MadCap or the Grand Central Market. On the way home, I will often swing by the library. Sometimes I will stop back at the Grand Central Market for a sandwich.

The smell of the city changes from block to block and from month to month. In the summer, the city smells green and steamy. In the winter, earth and smoke. Currently, in the morning the scent trail goes something like this: leaves, earth, bread baking, pavement, car exhaust, bus fumes, cigarette smoke, concrete, pancakes, coffee, river, and occasionally hops from one of the local breweries. Each day is unique as a fingerprint.

This is the last work day of the year. Since i started this job on August 22, I have driven to work exactly twice. Call it 18 weeks. Or 17, when holidays are removed. So 17 weeks, five work-days a week, three miles a day. 255 miles. Or in my Subaru, a full tank of gas. Extrapolate it out and it is around 750 miles a year of using alternate transportation.

And the best part is that I feel more connected with Grand Rapids than I have in years. Working in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day, even in an office full of good people, is kind of alienating. Walking brings me back to earth.

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