Friday, August 21, 2009

Don't Walk

Mrs. Indie-Pop was doing something you never ought to do in suburbia – she was walking. Not that it’s dangerous in our neighborhood, unless stepping in dog shit or being overcome by depression at the sight of four SUVs in a single driveway is your idea of dangerous. It’s just something that’s seen as strange. For years my neighbours would stop and insist on offering me a lift if they saw me out and about without the requisite metal chassis on wheels. “But I’m only 100 yards from home,” I’d say. “But I’m going that way anyway,” they’d say. “But I’m only 75 yards from home,” I’d say. And they would reply that it really was no trouble, and I would say, “Thanks, but I’m actually home now, would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”

Anyway, Mrs. Indie-Pop’s car was in for service, so she took the radical step of hoofing it home from the underground, about a mile and a half away, which is the distance the average US suburban dweller accumulates on foot across the course of his or her entire adult life. Around 300 yards from home, a car pulled up beside her. She saw a balding man in his 30s talking to her, but as she had her iPod earplugs in, she couldn’t hear what he was saying. He seemed to be in some distress. It turned out he was saying, “What are you doing?” Like the radio had just issued a tornado watch, a Code Orange terror alert and a Walking Will Eventually Kill You health warning all in one bulletin.

“I’m walking,” she replied, keeping her distance. Because what you read in the news is true. This country is packed with freakin’ weirdoes.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Home,” she said.

“Do you want a ride?”

It’s hard to convey through written speech, but this was not a neighbourly offer inspired by the desire to perform a worthy deed. It was a clear come-on. As though she would fancy a roadside stalker with a receding hairline enough to just hop in the passenger seat for a night of fun. She declined and continued on her way, then burst through the front door claiming, “I’ve still got it!”

Later that evening we were watching the first series of
Mad Men, and I pointed out that now we were in episode ten, we really had got the message that advertising executives in the early 1960s were a bunch of boorish, chauvinist swine with absolutely no redeeming human qualities whatsoever. Mrs. Pop railed in the programme’s defence that this was a pointed reminder of what feminists had to start the struggle against. So that today women can enjoy the freedom of walking down the street without being hassled by, say, kerb-crawling scum who think that a woman alone anywhere in public must be in the need of male company.

Walk or don’t walk. In America they make the choice nice and easy.


No Good Boyo said...

A Russian woman walking along the road without being wolfwhistled and vigorously harassed by passing motorists, policemen and infants at the breast would assume she'd landed on Planet of the Gays.

She would also expect you to give a lift even if you were driving your ambulance to a major pile-up.

Les Boyos have just finished watching series 2 of Mad Men. The chaps don't get any nicer.

Ever wonder what would have happened if Stirling Cooper had employed Jews?

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

I much prefer the YouTube parody clips to the real thing. Last night we were forced to swallow Peggy's surprise baby in the first season finale, just popping out from under her frumpy togs. As they no doubt did all the time in Manhattan in the early 60s - folks were just too busy to notice that they were nine months pregnant.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your readers can be expected to pass judgment on the wisdom of the wife's choice to walk unless we know what was playing on the iPod. Was it the Dave Matthews Band?

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

I'd like to think it was Cabaret Voltaire's Streetwalkin', but I suspect Mrs. Pop is not familiar with that particular brand of early 80s industrial-electronica. At the better end of her taste buds, most likely Neko Case. At the other extreme - German pop-rockers Rosenstolz (if I don't post for a while, by the way, it's because she's read all this and has most likely killed me).

Dave Matthews is stigmatised with too dull a name to merit listening time. Have I missed anything?

No Good Boyo said...

I shared the city of Moscow with a Municher most probably called Rolf in 1988-89. He would praise the foul-mouthed slatterns in stand-up buffets on their fare, with much kissing of his finger-tips. Then he'd undo our good work of weaning the locals off prog-rock by introducing them to "this gread Bridish bend colt 'Zimply Ret'". He claimed never to have used public transport in Germany.

Evan said...

I have to say, this is probably the first thing on here I've read that doesn't jibe with my suburban experiences. Walking to go someplace instead of driving--yes, that might get you some puzzled reactions. But I see plenty of people walking for exercise. Ironically, these people looking to improve their health by walking or jogging seem to be incapable of walking on the sidewalk, and insist on walking or jogging in the street. The most dangerous example I've seen was when I was making a turn onto a residential street that is narrow, and has a big hill, so turning onto it you have to be careful to make sure no one is coming. I couldn't see any cars coming up the hill towards me at the corner, so I turned, and was met by a jogger pushing their baby in a stroller, jogging uphill in the middle of the road. They gave me a dirty look--I guess endangering their own life and their child's life by refusing to jog on the sidewalk is worth the exercise.