I used to bike to school. Secondary school. I’m not sure how long I did that for because I only had a bike for a short time – a friend rode into the back of it and buckled the rear wheel – but it might have been a couple of years. The other years I walked. I think it was probably a ten minute bike ride or a twenty minute walk to school from my house.
Nowadays I walk to work. It takes about 35 minutes. When I walk I listen to podcasts or music. When I walked to school I didn’t do that. Podcasts didn’t exist of course, but the Walkman had come out. I didn’t have a Walkman. When I walked to school – or rode my bike – I just thought about stuff, or day dreamed, or switched off.
When I was walking to work this morning I listened to a podcast. It was talking about the way social media and the internet seeks to mine us, to utilise us, to nudge us and optimize us. It was in the midst of this podcast that I realised that I had come to see the walk to work as an opportunity, and that if I didn’t listen to a podcast or some music while I was doing it I was “wasting” the walk. I felt chagrined. How had I turned into a person who thought walking without listening to music or a podcast was a “waste of time”?
It is not unrelated that I find e-scooters irritating. I often find myself walking around scooters abandoned on footpaths or making way for them as they come past me. What necessitated them? In our world of diminishing everything why have these machines been constructed and what happens to them when they are scrapped? What happens to all their parts, and cells, and wiring? Could we not have walked? Or taken the bus? I mean, in light of the fact they are not needed, and resources are scarce, and the production of nonsense items is so wasteful as to be unethical. In light of that.
It is related by the internet: the walking and the scooters and the irritation. Related by the app that let’s you ride the scooter that is provided by Uber that would rather – much rather – you did not take the bus. Or walk. Why walk when you can Uber? Save precious time. Don’t waste a moment. Who has time to walk anymore?
I simply feel tired of it all. All this noise. It amounts to the unsatisfying stimulation of urges that cannot be satiated. And now I think of walking without music as a waste. I try to imagine how the past was when the opportunity to not have the noise of stimulation thrust at you was everywhere. I mean trees instead of AdShells on bus shelters. I mean: day dreams were more available in the past. They were everywhere. At the back of classrooms on lazy summer afternoons. Waiting for you on the corner on the walk home. Hanging around with you on Sunday afternoon in the hours between lunch and dinner with nothing to do. Where have they gone now? Chased away by screens. Sometimes when I sit down at my computer at my desk in the morning I feel like a cow coming into the milking shed to be hooked up and drained for a day’s work.
Tomorrow I will walk to work without my headphones. I will think, and then day dream, and then wander in my mind. It will amount to nothing. I won’t document the walk. I won’t share it online. It will just be me and the present, and when I have finished it will be gone. Not measured. Not traced.
A chance to escape.