I was walking home from work a few weeks ago and a young man passed me on some kind of hover craft. He was standing on a disc, just the size for his two big feet. It was about four or five inches off of the ground and made no sound; I didn’t even know he was approaching me from behind. Maybe there were wheels I couldn’t see along with a battery or maybe it was solar powered. It must have been some kind of prototype.
That got me thinking about how the sidewalk experience has changed.
The sidewalks of my childhood were populated by tricycles, baby strollers, and roller skaters. Back then, the skates had those metal wheels – maybe you remember – they made that intolerable grating sound. It was worse than fingernails on a blackboard. Those days, a few people might be out for a walk – no one went for a jog back then.
We girls would jump rope, use colored chalk to prepare a game of hop-scotch, play two-square with one of those large rubber balls, or just sit down on a cement square with a deck of cards and play a game of gin rummy with a friend or a sibling. Maybe another kid from the neighborhood would walk by, pulling a red Radio Flyer wagon, occupied by a baby brother, some odd cargo of dolls, or, nothing at all.
One day, there was a skateboard. My big sister Trish had the first one I’d ever seen and took to the sidewalks for a ride right away. When I wanted to try it out – forget about it. As far as she was concerned, I had cooties and would contaminate it – no go.
These days, I never know what I’ll see.
Down by the Oakland waterfront I pass people on Segway’s, the JLS security guards (aka Mall Cops) riding battery operated chariots, the rollerbladers, joggers, and roller skaters. Sometimes there are timid bikers riding on the sidewalk to avoid the cars (including me). Sometimes a neighbor on an electric wheelchair passes me by – gosh they can go fast! But, not so fast if their pet dog is on a leash accompanying them. And, speaking of dogs, there are always a lot of them on the sidewalks- pugs, poodles, Portuguese water dogs, an assortment of terriers, and mutts of all kinds. They are all walking a human who is totally oblivious as to who really is in charge. Now that’s just like the old days.