It was one of those afternoons where I had to make a quick run to the store for a few items. Nothing major at all and quite frankly it probably could’ve waited until a bigger shopping excursion was needed. But I was never one to go too long without my green tea so off I went.
I quickly grabbed the keys and proceeded to the garage to take the car on a trek of two miles to the local grocery. Driving everywhere has simply become routine for me, whether it be a bread and milk run or to a neighbor’s house several blocks away.
On the short drive there, and as is usually the case, my peripheral vision took over and my mind began to wander. Funny, I didn’t think about what else I may need at the store or if I should stop and get gas while I’m out. No, I actually started thinking about all the places I used to WALK to growing up.
You see, those were the days when my Mom and Dad almost always said “No” to taking me on short little runs to play video games at the Palmer Park Mall or obtain comic books at Mr. Monster’s Comic Crypt. It quickly got to the point to where I didn’t even bother asking them anymore. I’d just gather up my posse of friends and we’d put our boots on the ground (or Chuck Taylor’s with rainbow colored shoe-laces. After all we’re talking about the 1980′s here).
I remember how we used to walk downtown to go to Mr. Monster’s on Fridays in the summer when the new shipment of books arrived. We never even second guessed if we should be doing it. We just did it. The walk was insignificant compared to what awaited us. The new adventures of Spider-man or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles always came before the thought of possibly developing a charlie horse in the leg.
Perhaps it was also because we had nothing else to do but that didn’t really matter. We had no problem walking long distances through green pastures and city streets. Feeling the heat of the sun and the warm summer breezes. It was the camaraderie of teenage boys without responsibility taking a long walk. Talking about life, sports and music. Oh yeah, and girls too of course. They seemed to become less and less icky with each passing summer.
One of the longest walks we used to make was from South Side Easton, Pennsylvania to Phillipsburg, New Jersey to go to a hobby store. An interstate trek of about 4 1/2 miles. It was on this journey that we would take a “short-cut” and use the train trestle bridge that spanned 40 feet above the Lehigh River to cross over state lines.
We’d climb up huge hills and over rocks, scuffing up knees and twisting our ankles just to make it onto that railroad track. And while walking over the bridge our only concerns were one: to never look down and two: hope that we had timed it just right and there would be no train coming.
Far along the other side of the track, on the New Jersey side, stood an old rusty-metal train signal that always glowed a solid red light. And we, with our teenage engineering degrees, took that as meaning there was no train approaching.
On one occasion as we were about halfway across the bridge I noticed that the light had suddenly changed color from red to green and my heart skipped a beat. Even though we couldn’t see or hear any locomotive approaching I don’t think I was ever more afraid in my entire life.
The gaggle of us took off as fast as we could making it to the other side in seconds flat. I remember having to console one friend who was really having a hard time with the situation in mid sprint. “Wood?”, he said. “I’m scared”. I responded the way any caring friend would. “Shaddap! Don’t be scared… RUN!”.
As we sat on the side of the tracks, now well off of the bridge and gasping for air we all looked at each other and began laughing. No train ever came but looking back now and thinking about how we could have easily been taken out by one it certainly was one of the most stupidest things we ever did.
I was quickly transported back to present day as I realized that I had pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store. I could actually feel my heart racing a bit from thinking about that mad dash on the trestle 25 years ago. I quickly stocked up on my green tea and made a hasty return home.
Arriving back in my garage I thought again about those walks. Not so much about my near death experience but the idea of walking when possible. The thought of green pastures, city streets and summer breezes sounds very appealing so I’m hoping that for my next green tea run I’ll be able to lace up the Chuck Taylor’s and two-step it to the store.
After all, it’s not that far… and there’s no train trestle to cross.