The Week I Spent Walking

Broken handlebars? Not a problem. Get a macho Ultimate Frisbee guy to set them straight and on I go.

A stolen gear guard? Slightly more irritating. But, after sacrificing a pair of torn yoga pants, you learn to live with it.

Cold that makes your knuckles a most unsightly shade of blue? Gloves are a woman’s best friend.

These are the problems faced by this college freshman as she biked through her first two months of college on a bike that has been happily dubbed “Cappy”.  For the most part, nothing could get me to dismount that trusty blue steed. I whisked past the walkers on my way to class. I got used to a 3-minute commute to the other side of campus. I took the long way practically everywhere because I had the time, and more importantly: the speed.

Sandy ruined all that. With a note of true sincerity, I realize that the plight caused by Sandy on the east coast and in countries like Haiti is not only grave, but was fatal for dozens of people. And, unfortunately, it continues. I am reverent to the power and effects of that storm and hold those affected by it in my prayers.

However, in the world of Kent, Sandy played an almost comically uncomfortable role. We got out of morning and afternoon classes that Tuesday. We endured a whole week of grey, rainy weather.

And this biker found her walking legs. Say what?

Nothing is more off-putting to a biker than that feeling of back-splash. It’s that soaking effect when your back tire spins every pit of frigid puddle-water onto your hair, back, and rear with a merciless chill. You dismount your bike a few minutes later with a muddy streak stretching the length of your shirt… and with a shiver that lasts.

Congratulations, you look and feel all sorts of “ick”. And Sandy made back-splash a nearly daily ailment for this biker – hence the walking legs.

And many a lesson was learned.

  1. I took the long way home. Scrolling up like an intelligent reader, you of course scrolled up to one of my earlier paragraphs and realized that I had taken the long way home as a biker too. Am I duping you? Oh, not at all. You see, “taking the long way home” means something completely different as a walker. It means letting your neck swivel and take in the people walking past, the colors of the rain-laden autumn leaves, the pattern of feet striking damp pavement. It’s an experience for the senses, not a test of speed.
  2. I chatted. Sure, biker-Hannah shouted many a chipper hello over that wind-cutting shoulder of hers to the flashing faces going by. But walker-Hannah could have learned a life story or two in the time it took to mosey from one corner of campus to the other. She didn’t (apparently divulging life stories on the way to an 8:15 class isn’t the usual), but she could have. Oddly, there is something empowering in the knowledge that you can use a previously blank process (transporting my lazy self to class) as a chance to catch-up with someone, not just catch-up on time.
  3. Time – the concept I had had of time was completely revamped. I had to leave a 15 minute block of time for travel where I had previously allotted a hasty 5 minute block. This meant having to script my time more carefully – my To-Do list exploded as I tried to account for everything I planned to do and make sure I had time enough to walk there without sprinting to catch the door as it swung shut for the lecture. Yes, a To-Do list explosion. Picture it: Post-Its EVERYWHERE.

Those were my top 3 revelations, but smaller ones found me every day. I felt like a more approachable person on foot, because I didn’t have to jump on my bike or push it around when a friend wanted to make a spontaneous side-trip after class. I could chatter at eye-level.

I’ll admit… when Sandy left? My bike and I reunited graciously. The feeling of being on a bike again held that training-wheel-free elation, much as it always has.

But, the bike is not a lifeline quite as it used to be. I still walk to about half of my classes and forsake it entirely when I know I have time to kill. This took me by surprise – how could I, the girl who practically bawled her eyes out when someone tore the handlebars from her bike, leave it standing locked behind the bike room doors?

I don’t know that I could explain it. Just as I’m not sure I could explain the feeling of familiarity that has soothed me lately, the knowledge that I am finally becoming a part of this campus and the flow of students who walk its paths.

Leaving my bike at the post was a bigger transition for me than I have known since the first few days of my being here. It taught me leisure and time management and all of those wonderful things that I had been struggling to find, all in one click of the bike lock. Granted, I’m no professional and have learned to speed-walk almost as a sport – time isn’t always in my favor.

But that week spent walking was an eye-opener. And as I develop a new pace to and from my various outings and classes, I hope to find a new pace for my college life as well. One that avoids the back-splash of poor decisions, and instead carries all the leisure, approachability, and good humor of Hannah the Walker.

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