Walking: a love letter

By Tim Cheplick

walking - flickr sameold2010
(Flickr: sameold2010)

Before fire, early homosapiens discovered something even more useful. About four million years ago, and over a long period of time, our ancestors and their big brains got up off their four limbs and began to stand upright. By doing this, they were able to free up an additional, and precious, two limbs to use for such tasks as carrying food, weapons or tools.

Though giving up some speed, I think our early ancestors were right to stand up tall. But today the proliferation of the automobile, that ghastly hunk of pollution-spewing metal, has all but rendered our legs and feet moot.

Nonetheless, we as a species can surely find other uses for these almost archaic branches of flesh and bone. I do all the time. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to use my legs, and I can think of plenty of things for them to do.

I’ll never forget the first time I made the move from automobile to legs. It was a whole new world out there. I used them to walk into Amherst to run some errands. I put one foot in front of the other, and continued to do so until I reached my destination. Instead of using my foot to press a pedal to propel a car, I was able to cut out the middle man and do it all myself. I was empowered.

Lots of personally-operated vehicles whizzed by me as I made the trek, but these machines seemed to have a lot of filth associated with them. When they went by, I noticed a peculiar stench and a cloud of smoke.

As I continued to walk, I realized that the path for myself was quite treacherous, being both slippery and slushy from the copious amounts of snow we’ve been getting. The path for the automobiles, however, was clear of any such hazards, and I wondered how this could be. Were these hunks of metal being preferentially treated over myself, a warm-blooded, oxygen-loving human, whose species govern this land?

I continued, perplexed by the issue. Though my legs moved slowly in comparison to the vehicles racing by next to me, I didn’t feel like I was moving slowly at all. In fact, I took the extra time to notice the scenery around me. The snow still hung on to the otherwise bare tree branches in a most beautiful way, I recall.

Some people might be cold using their legs to get around during the winter in a state at this latitude, but not me. This is because I wore several layers and a hat and gloves. These can be purchased rather easily at many stores, and I have found that they can insulate the body against the cold weather. They can be quite useful when not traveling by motor vehicle and the warmth that one can provide.

The modern invention of the mp3 player also has a place in this tale of re-learning the usefulness of the human legs. The device is portable, and I have found it to be a welcomed comrade on many a walks since. One must be careful when crossing streets though, for cars can be very dangerous indeed, and may sneak up on you. 

When I reached my destination, I found it pleasant to not have to search for a parking space, and was appreciative of the time and frustration that this saved. I dropped myself off right in front of the store to which I was traveling.

Upon buying my items, I initially panicked because I was unsure of where I was to put my bags without a personal automobile to carry them for me. The cashier looked at me a bit strange. But soon enough, I recalled my ancestors and the way they ingeniously freed up my two upper limbs, and this realization prompted me to grasp the bags with my hands, bring the bags to my body with my arms, and then walk back to my residence with the bags in my hands. Boy, was I glad my ancestors had such foresight!

There are two conclusions one can make from my miraculous tale of walking. First, it may seem logical for us to one day evolve into a species that uses only one leg to walk. This would free up yet another limb and with it a world of possibilities!

But until then, I think we can all find ways to use our legs, if for no other reason than to keep us from losing them to evolutionary progress. Walking has many benefits including a slower approach to life that allows more time for appreciation and self-reflection. It’s also great exercise. Walking with purpose, like I did to run errands, will incorporate a healthy, fun, and sustainable aspect into your lifestyle.

It is easy to find excuses to take a car rather than walk, but it is hard to find an excuse that does not include laziness or selfishness.

Tim Cheplick is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]