To protect the anonymity of my neighbors, I’ll call them Goldene and Bernard.
I walk the mile to our village post office just about every afternoon. Some days the walk includes a couple other errands—a stop at the bank, or paying the water or gas bill. The 30-minute round trip route always takes me down the quiet, tree-canopied street around the corner from my house.
Along this course I pass by the home of an older couple, Bernard and Goldene, with whom I’ve chatted when they’ve been doing yard work or when they’ve seen me around town. Sometimes they are heading out for a post office stop as well, and though they did walk there on some days, most often they drive. On the days he was walking, Bernard, seeing me on my way, would joke that he needed to get there first to avoid being stuck in line behind me and my bag full of packages.
At different times when one or the other of them have offered me a ride, I assumed they did so out of politeness, understanding that I liked the daily walk to the post office. On two different occasions I accepted their proffer. Both times I had walked to the post office, after taking care of business, found it raining as I began my return.
On this day, with only a drizzle of rain, I accepted a ride from Goldene, who had completed her postal matters and said she’d be glad to give me a lift home. I got in the passenger seat and she pulled out of the post office parking lot. After going a block or so, she said she needed to make a stop, turning down a residential street. She pulled into a driveway, stopping in front of a residential garage. The doors were open, revealing assorted boxes and furniture. Saying she needed to collect everything for her church’s rummage sale, I got out of the car as she opened the hatchback. I began loading the boxes in. We made one more similar stop and then she dropped me off at my house, thirty minutes later.
The second ride involved Bernard as my driver. This time it was undeniably raining, and he strongly suggested that accepting a ride home from him would be a good idea. He cleared away some papers from the passenger seat. I got in and he took me directly home. About ten minutes later the phone rang. It was Bernard; he told me I might want to check the seat of my pants. Apologizing, he said that he’d inadvertently had me sit on a cake.
Though both were detours in my daily routines, they stand as examples of the unexpected pleasures of living in a small town, or being a part of any community. I left the house with packages to mail on each of those days more than a decade ago; I returned with bonus anecdotes, amplified by the charms of having both Goldene and Bernard entangle me in their sympathetically matched taxi service.
Since then I have been offered rides when walking to the local diner and back in the morning, or to the post office. These offers are usually a reflection of the perceived inhospitality of the weather to pedestrians. The few times I’ve accepted a lift has been due to rain, never snow or cold, for which I dress warmly. Rain allows me more room for poor planning. My choice to bring an umbrella is based entirely on what is happening when I’m leaving the house. I never check forecasts. Even if it looks like it may rain, if it’s not currently raining, I tend to think I’ll get to where I’m going without getting wet. If need be I can then wait for the rain to cease. Or I may make it to my errand and back before any cloudburst occurs. This does not always end with the best outcome.
One time it was raining on my walk back from the post office and no offer was forthcoming. Since I was carrying nothing that needed to be kept dry and the temperature was quite warm, for the first time since childhood I embraced the idea: “I’m going to walk home in the rain!” While I wouldn’t recommend this experiment to the elderly or infirm, it was rewarding to become soaking wet by the accumulation of raindrops. I was soaked but not cold. We generally avoid discomfort, but in this case I found it was not so uncomfortable after all. I’m not going to skydive but I can walk home in the rain.
Artist David Greenberger lives in Greenwich, NY. His latest CD of monologues & music is My Thoughts Approximately. www.davidgreenberger.com @davidbg