Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Walker

The streets have become a tarnished parody of our dreams of progress. They are littered with reminders of the disposable culture we find ourselves in. Everywhere, we see reminders that our lives are filled with use-once-and-discard items: an empty bag of Fritos, a tampon applicator, condom wrappers, little ziplock bags the size of a Tic-tac container, homeless people. When times are hard, people harden. The worst among us become worse, but the best become something more, something new.

It seems that unemployment has inspired some to become superheroes. It got me thinking about what superhero I would be. In fact, I realized I may have been a superhero for months now.

I am: The Walker. I prowl the streets with my trusty sidekick, Barkley the dog. I am always looking to help those I see. I’ll share with you the fruits of my 5 months as a superhero/dog owner (in order from least important to most substantial).

First, I am asked on a nearly weekly basis for directions. I am now great at giving directions. I have it down to a system. First, you have to ask yourself: do you know where they’re trying to go? If you have no clue, do both of yourselves a favor and say, “Sorry, I have no idea.” If you know, then direct them. If you use your arm, MAINTAIN EYE-CONTACT. I can’t stress this enough. No one can hear you on a busy street (especially from their car) if you’re talking away from them.

Walking my dog has enabled me to become better at giving directions. I have actually been asked twice now where a certain dance studio is in our neighborhood, and I would never have known its location if I didn’t walk by it nearly every day. In fact, it is this walking around that enables me to even be outside to help people.

I was once walking my dog and some children at the school near my house lost a football over the fence. It rolled into the street, where a car grazed it. The ball was sent under a parked car near where I stood, across the street from the playground. I managed to lay down flat and reach the ball under the car to return it to them. In a similar vein, I saw a man across an intersection drop his sunglasses, so I went to pick them up, ran after him, and returned them.

My final act as a superhero was actually one of the first I performed. I found a set of keys while walking my dog, and it had a keyless entry clicker. So, I walked around clicking it, looking for the car. When I found it (a silver Matrix), I wrote a note with my phone number and placed it under the car’s wipers. We met up and they got their keys back. The man was an old, gray-haired fellow who said he worked in psychology. He had no questions for me about why I returned them, maybe because he lived in a time when this was expected behavior.

Which makes me wonder: is there really anything good about acting this way? Is this what being a “superhero” is about? Isn’t this just the way we should be expected to act? Have our expectations dropped so far that common courtesy is a rare virtue? I hope not.

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