“Only bankrupt addicts walk, Dad.”

I was doing my laundry at Super Wash Industrial Laundry on Sidney Baker a few weeks ago, and I opened the door to the restroom–it was unlocked–to of course avail myself of its utility. A tall, very slender woman was already in there.

“Oh!” I started. “Excuse me!” She was looking at a small compact mirror. I quickly closed the door.

A stout young man–who I later I learned was 35 and claimed he had “several businesses”–spoke up and said, “It’s a shame when they let themselves get that way.” Meaning women, and meaning this person as one example of many women. Apparently, my quick gander at her in the bathroom was not long enough to notice that she was one of literally a handful of homeless or under-domiciled people I’ve seen here in this city of 27,000. She spent the next 20 minutes in the restroom, where I learned she often spent her days. In addition to her–whom I’ve seen as early as 7am walking along Sidney Baker and as late as 10pm at the corner of Main and Sidney Baker just staring off to the South–there’s the older man who rides a ten-speed bicycle and who, I’ve been told, sings opera behind the public library (I think I heard him the other day when I was walking in Louise Hays Park, across the river); there’s the man in a blue hoodie, tan coat and shorts who will take a long drag from a cigarette and then yank away the butt like it’s just bit his lip; and there are maybe two or three others I see regularly. I’m sure there are more.

Walking… Riding bikes…

“Everyone” drives here: in 2015, 82% of Kerrville households drove to work by themselves (U.S.: 76%); 5% of Americans took public transportation; 0% here did. Three percent of Americans walked to work, and 2% of Kerrvillians did! (Insert smiley face emoji here on iPhone version.) The other good news is that while almost 4% of American households own five or more cars, that’s true for only 1% here (89 households). In fact, once you get past the proverbial two-car household, Kerrvillians own fewer cars on average than Americans elsewhere.

My middle son almost had a fit when I mused that I might buy a bike to get around instead of a car; “Dad. DAD! No one does that but homeless people. Don’t!” (Unless, he later added, I was on a serious racing bike, wearing workout clothes, and made myself appear to be training for a triathlon all the time.) Walking is tantamount to declaring bankruptcy, addiction, and moral uncleanliness in one fell swoop.

I have to say, I was tempted.

But “Mike,” the young man, decided that because I had 27 minutes left to dry, he would launch into a soliloquy on his view of women. Whom to date, whom to marry, and how it’s a crying shame that women disqualify him as a boyfriend based on his driving a brand new Ford truck rather than, say, a Lexus. I had work to do on my laptop, but his stomach blocked my escape.

I can walk from where I live to downtown Kerrville in 7 minutes. Probably take 10 to get back, since it’s uphill, with a beautiful view west and north. The Garden District. My rationale in choosing this place was that if my $650 car decides to give up its ghost–and I’m not sure this puppy still has a ghost to give–I could still get to work, the grocery store, the river, etc.

And over the past month, I’ve seen a lot of people walking. It’s just a matter of where to look. A friend of mine has a Fitbit and a company-wide competition as to who can walk the most steps each week. He’s quite the active walker, but finished only fourth during the week he told me about it.

Even in this car culture, there is a lot of outdoor activity, year ’round. I’d hazard a guess, as much activity here if not more than in New York City (especially if you cancel out the walking-as-transport factor), where being in an office is equivalent to your car here. In New York, if you don’t inhabit a corner office at least 30 stories up, you are considered morally unclean.

Filling my tank with dinosaur bones at the Exxon on Bandera Highway and 534.


P.S. Happy Independence Day, Texas!

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