Yesterday was a beauty, and so I took the orange Fuji Absolute bicycle and pedaled. How could I not? I took the easy route, the local rail trail end to end. Never does its grade elevate steeper than 1%, in fact, I doubt it ever gets that steep. The breeze was light, the air was light in that it was quite dry. For a Monday mid-morning, the path was a bit more populated than soloist I would have liked, but we say, nod, or smile hello to each other in passing and it’s nice. The frowners always briefly chill me, but why? There are no requirements that a walker must also be some level of friendly. We all have legs and feet, and all will benefit from using them and keeping them operable, even if we don’t smile while we do.
However, one event: off trail — towards the end of the current trail, at around milepost 11.00 a small shopping mall backs up to the right of way. I got off the trail to explore what stores were there. There was a grocery store. I decided I was hungry for a snack, so I went and selected a mocha chip muffin. I brought it to the register, and the clerk’s frown was so deep as to be permanently carved. I handed her the bagged muffin. “What is it?” she barked, before I could say. “It’s a muffin.” I tried to say it lightly. I knew the item was listed as costing $1.89, so I had $2.00 ready to hand to her. “$2.02′” she growled. “Oh!” I had to dig into my backpack to find change. She tapped the register counter. She tapped the register counter. She tapped the register counter. It took me probably 10 seconds to find and hand over the change. She handed me back the bag. I thanked her. “Have a nice day,” she countered, and frowned me out.
So, this darkened my day. I am not readily thrown by others’ anger, frustration, mis-humor turned toward me, but that moment, yesterday I was. Now I reasoned, hers is not a high paying, highly regarded job, and the grocery store interior was surprisingly dim in its style and decor, not derelict in any way, but dark, in stark contrast to the sunlight streaming in through the windows, and I obviously was out playing, not working for a living on that day. As I returned to my bicycle, I simultaneously muttered about her and felt bad for her. Then I found myself wondering, worrying, if while I was in the store, had someone possibly stolen my bicycle, or knocked it over? Were the chocolate chips in my muffin going to melt and be a mess before I got to eat it? Would one of the wheels spring a flat? Would I slide on the gravel alongside the trail and fall? There was no joy in Kate’s bicycleville.
What do you think? How can our jobs be made satisfying? How can our jobs do something other than provide a paycheck, regardless of what our jobs are? Why is there so much that makes one unhappy? Why, when there is so much that is beautiful? And, is most of the first human-made, and most of the second not? Yet humans can make much that is beautiful, and can be so. Why not just such?
On this rail trail, especially on the second phase, which was completed last year, there are quite a few wetlands. They are wonderful sites for bird song listening and bird flitting, perching, and flight watching. I paused before one such and counted red-wing blackbirds, swamp sparrows, and yellow warblers and a baltimore oriole while I enjoyed what turned out to be a really, really delicious mocha chip muffin.