Today is Thursday and I’ll fill you all in what happened on Wednesday, which was pretty similar to today. You see, in reality, for most of the week I don’t have much reason to leave my downtown bubble. By that, I mean that I can get almost all of my needs met within about a twenty-minute walk of my home. Of course school exists out there on Cooper Point, a two-and-a-half hour stroll from my apartment. 

So yesterday, the only time I left my house was to go to dinner at QB on Fourth Ave, in the heart of downtown. I live on the eastern edge of downtown, literally. If you cross to the other side of Eastside Street you are in the Eastside Neighborhood according to Olympia’s neighborhood maps. So anyway, on my way home I realized I was making a conscious choice to walk back along Fourth Avenue because it was more vivacious that the parallel Fifth Avenue or Legion. Especially in the early evening it is really nice to be out on the street with other pedestrians. 

Speaking of other pedestrians, have I mentioned how frequently I find myself meeting another pedestrian in the eye and smiling, nodding, or uttering a brief “hello” to them? I find that this kind of interaction, whether it be shallow or not, is much rarer on a bicycle and non-existant in a car. You see, I believe that if these little “shallow” interactions are repeated often enough, I am likely to become emboldened and actually say more than a single word of greeting. I am convinced that I am more likely to start a conversation. But those daily interactions must happen. The problem is that on the streets of Olympia I rarely find myself passing the same people. I compare this to walking along San Pablo Avenue in Oakland a couple summers ago. I would pass the same groups of men  hanging out on the sidewalk everyday. We did not get to know one another, but I became familiar with them, and that’s a lot better than I can say about the neighborhood that I live in now. In my part of Olympia, the residents don’t hang out on the street. 

Before I get back to talking about Fourth Avenue, which I intend to do, let me rant for a moment on the design of my apartment building. I live in a four-year-old three story apartment building and I barely know any of my neighbors. Of the seven other apartments on my floor, I would only be able to identify four of the residents. I have no idea who lives on any of the other floors. I never see the other residents. There is an underground parking garage, if you choose to pay for it (which my girlfriend and I don’t). My understanding is that people drive into the parking garage and take an elevator up to their floor, never having to interact with the rest of the building. There are stairs up to the other floors, but they exist behind heavy metal fire doors. If people use the stairs to get between floors, you’re still not aware of them unless you’re directly in that space. Two years ago I lived in the Angelus Apartments on Fourth Avenue. That building is more than a hundred years old and it has a central staircase, no elevator, and no underground parking. I had a much better sense of who was living there. My point is that one building encourages pedestrian interactions while the other offers many opportunities to avoid them. 

Back on Fourth Avenue… The scale of Fourth Avenue also makes it inviting for pedestrians, but perhaps not so inviting for novice bicyclists. Tight packed parked cars make me feel like I’m speeding when I’m driving twenty miles per hour. Cars going this speed is much nicer for walkers, but all those tight packed parked cars and no bike lane makes it scary for some bikers.  The trees have finally gotten their leaves and they make Fourth just a little bit more snug. They somehow feel like a second level of parked cars, separating buildings from roads you find tightly packed parked trees. 

One thing that has bothered me about being so far from campus this week has been the lack of access to free printing. I suppose it is true that if you have to walk everywhere you will learn that there are things you might want to get done just once a week. “Honey, I’m going off to campus to get some printing done. Is there anything I can do for you while I’m there?” (I don’t call my girlfriend Honey.) “No, please send a post card, though!” Do archaic forms of long distance travel lead to archaic forms of communication?

So today I strolled on down to the Farmer’s Market to scoping out what would be available for next week. I only bought some cheese, but sure did see a lot of greens. Actually, I’m surprised how much less is available on Thursdays than on Saturday or Sunday. I guess those are the big market days. After the farmer’s market I headed to Bayview and then to Buck’s 5th Ave Spice Shop because I’m concerned about finding local salt for next week. 

Buck’s was closed but I remembered someone once teaching me a phrase, walk with your fingers. When I heard it I had no idea what they meant. They explained that you can save time and energy by thumbing through a phone book and dialing up businesses to get info rather than meeting them face-to-face. I suppose a lot of that human voice stuff has been replaced these days with information posted on websites. I definitely could have gotten things done more quickly by walking with my fingers, whether they were dancing on my phone or dancing on my laptop, but, as shy as I can be, I prefer to see and speak to humans.