The cab dropped us off at a gas station, and we started to walk down a side street. The asphalt glowed in the early morning sun. My wife and I had never visited this part of San José, and we were too groggy to appreciate the new sights. We followed the directions specifically: 100 meters east of the gasolinera. We found the specified corner, and then we stopped and gawked.
We had expected one man and one vehicle — a Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked on the curb. Instead we found two men, wearing camouflage cargo pants and bandannas over their faces, and a Jeep half-covered in tarp. The men glanced at us. They looked like cartel hitmen. Then they went back to work, waxing the exposed half of the car.
A person who eschews a car and walks by choice today seems willfully archaic, as curious a specimen as someone choosing to play professional football in a leather helmet.
Why would you choose to walk when the gods of modern technology have provided us with cars? We’re in an age of rapid movement, and walkers seem to be in no hurry; many are known to stop to talk to others, or to admire some streetside oddity that’s captured their attention. “English has no positive word for lingering on the street,” wrote British transportation consultant John Whitelegg. “In English, slowness in general is often treated with pity (a slow learner, retarded) with derision (sluggish) or with suspicion (loitering).”
Being a woman of a certain age, I’ve indulged myself in browsing red hats. I’ve resisted the impulse purchase so far, having failed to find the perfect wide-brimmed number to make me feel like a ’40s movie star on the prowl. I haven’t yet fully embraced the notion of being “a red hat lady.” Even so, whenever I come across such a group, I feel an up-welling sisterhood with those women of my age cohort, maybe because I respond to the almost ironic in-your-face quality of the smiling troops wearing red hats. And, yes, I’ve never seen a red-hat-wearing woman who didn’t look happy. But not all women over 60 wear red hats when they go on excursions. Some wear motorcycle helmets with a panache that would do any red-hat lady proud.