Thursday, October 04, 2012


Driving is isolating. By walking everywhere in my old city, I got to know different neighborhoods. As soon as a new business went in along a familiar route, I knew about it -- usually before it opened -- and I made a point to stop in. City rambles became one of my favorite pastimes. While riding the T, I saw people from all walks of life going about their days, and I got into conversations with people I could meet only on public transit. (I've got a great story about a neuroscientist I met while commuting to work one morning.) Most important, by stopping in for coffee most mornings at the shop on the way to the T stop, I got to know my neighbors. The walk home late at night went from being a source of trepidation to an opportunity to catch up with friends I ran into along the way. We had nothing more in common than that we lived in the same neighborhood. And we met only because we went to the same coffee shop on the walk to the T.

I've never quite been able to explain it well, but not driving everywhere really has changed my relationship with my surroundings. When I was a driver, locations were discrete points, and the spaces in between essentially didn't exist. That's much more true for highway driving, but true to a lesser extent for all kinds of roads. It makes all places seem like islands, instead of being connected.