Following yesterday’s appointment with the ophthalmologist, I was hoping to get home in time for a walk before starting dinner preparations.
But when I left the eye doctor, I remembered that one of my car’s headlights had burned out over the weekend, and I was only ten minutes away from the dealership.
“An hour and a half, maybe two hours,” the customer service rep estimated for the repair. So I wouldn’t be home in time for a walk. Which is why I ended up taking a walk along Route 2A in Littleton yesterday afternoon instead.
There were numerous problems with this plan. When relinquishing my car to the repair bay, I’d left my sneakers in the trunk. I was still wearing leather flats without socks.
Also I’d brought my laptop with me in case I had time to get some work done, so the laptop and case would have to go along on the walk as well.
Moreover, Route 2A is not the most scenic place to go walking. It’s a highway, though it does have a curbed sidewalk. But the scenery didn’t actually matter much, because I had just had my eyes dilated at the eye doctor and could hardly see in the bright sunlight anyway.
Walking along the edge of Route 2A, it occurred to me many times that I must look somewhat unhinged. Dressed for work, carrying a laptop, blindly squinting in the sun, out for a walk.
It was one of those times when I had to seriously weigh the burden of knowing I looked ridiculous against the rewards of fitting in a walk.
The rewards won. I walked around the dealership’s several large parking lots, and then down the road to a supermarket plaza. I was happy to find places to walk that were safely out of traffic. My shoes, though not ideal for walking, weren’t all that uncomfortable. My laptop didn’t feel too heavy. I was just glad to be out walking.
As I squinted my painfully dilated eyes against the sunshine and made my way around the parking lot and then along the highway to the supermarket again for one last lap, I took comfort in the fact that at least it was very unlikely that anyone would recognize me. I was nowhere near home, and I know only two people who live in Littleton. And one of those two people is my cousin, who was spending the year in Colorado.
Then I remembered seeing a Facebook post earlier that day from my cousin. She was actually moving back to Littleton. She had left Colorado by car three days ago. At the time she posted, around lunch, she was at the New York/Massachusetts border.
She could drive past at any minute.
Would she recognize me? I wondered. Would she think, there’s my nutty cousin, striding along the highway in work clothes and flats, carrying her briefcase, shading her puffy eyes?
Or would she just wonder how the town and its populace had gone downhill so fast in her absence?
In general, I think it’s worthwhile to care about appearances. That’s why I ask at least one other member of my family if my outfit looks okay before I leave for work every morning, and why if something seems a little bizarre even for me – like powerwalking along a highway in office clothes at rush hour – I try not to do it.
But yesterday I just really wanted to fit that walk in. Blindly and inappropriately dressed, I walked. And it was worth it. I was happy to have fit in a good walk. I was also really happy when it was over.
But mostly, I was happy I did not see my cousin.
And as far as I know, she didn’t see me. But of course, I can’t be sure. With my dilated pupils in the hot bright sunlight, I couldn’t see a thing anyway. Including my own reflection in the storefronts I passed. And that’s probably a very good thing.