Walking: A Quick Primer
Created | Updated Dec 19, 2007
For untold aeons, before the rise of the wheel and the literal, non-metaphorical rise of the aeroplane, homo sapiens have walked the earth. From soldiers marching off to war, to pilgrims walking mile after mile to glimpse a site where some holy man performed this or that miracle, walking has filled as many diverse roles as the countless pedestrians who have partaken of it. The seemingly innocuous act of putting one foot before the other has played a pivotal role in nearly every undertaking throughout all of human history. Walking as a practice has survived the automobile and bicycle, the automated wheelchair and the public transportation system, and, unsurprisingly, the unicycle. It's been speculated before that if people could, from time to time, just find the ability to revel in what they have, rather than dwell on what they don't, they would, perhaps, stumble upon a kind of happiness that would really, really get on their boss's nerves. Walking is an ability that nearly all of us have, and to the unabashedly joyous mind, nothing can rival the sheer pleasure of walking in the open air, swinging one's arms, feeling the solid ground beneath one's feet... This is a truly remarkable ability that is, astonishingly, taken for granted by nearly everyone who can do it. By and large, only those who have lost the ability seem to really appreciate it.
Bipedalism: A Brief Description
Humans are bipedals, that is, users of two feet, which is, depending on how you look at it, either an extraordinary evolutionary feat or quite a remarkable idea on the part of whatever deity may (or may not) have thought it up. It's a rather unique mode of self-locomotion as they go: our fellow primates have to walk on their knuckles to avoid falling over, most other mammals are quadrupeds, and the smaller you get, the more appendages of locomotion you seem to have, down to arachnids and insects, then amoebas, what with all of their cilia and other pseudopods. Walking on two feet, again, is an unusual pastime. It requires a supremely balanced backbone, a highly developed sense of equilibrium, and is greatly facilitated by really comfortable shoes.
The Importance of Good Footwear
Shoes, perhaps, are the most vitally important thing any bipedal can have. Many pre-industrial people of the globe seem to get along fine without them, so the real trick, it would seem, is to avoid uncomfortable footwear. This is evident when you walk around with people who haven't learned this, and are subsequently subjected to an unending litany of moaning and complaining about how 'their dogs are barking' and 'can we sit down for a minute' and 'their feet are killing them.' Ideally, equip yourself with shoes that aren't so tight as to obstruct the blood flow, but aren't so loose as to cause blisters. Any given pair of shoes, of course, reaches that perfect balance between falling apart and just looking really beaten up, whereupon they achieve maximum conceivable comfort and people ask you if it isn't time for you to be getting a new pair. Ignore them. Life is too short to spend it in uncomfortable shoes.
A Guide to Proper Walking
Children don't learn to walk until relatively late in their development, considering that kittens are under their feet a day after birth, getting stepped on and falling off things, and that sea turtles immediately walk into the ocean after birth. Humans can take anywhere from nine months to two years to acquire this basic skill. Even then, they fall down a lot until they get the hang of it, and even adult humans fall over from time to time. The trick to not falling over lies in lifting your foot far up enough off the ground so as to not trip over it, bringing it forward before gravity brings you toppling over to the side, and not tangling your feet up in each other. There are, of course, special obstacles you must learn to deal with as they arise, such as stairs, holes obscured in tall grass, and not tripping over other people's feet (a problem mostly unique to crowd walking), which is likely to cause both of you to fall, and they will more often than not take a dim view of this, despite the fact that walking upright is, in itself, a miracle of evolution countless millennia in the making. Or a really clever idea of God's. Walking may seem tricky at first, and even a longtime expert may fall over from time to time, but don't get discouraged. People who travel on their hands and knees don't get far in most social circles, so the effort really is worth it. Here are a few tips on walking:
1 - Walk in straight lines
This is one of the most common mistakes excessive motorists make. Remember, you are not a car. If a car were to go through a building instead of around it, that would slow it down more than it would save time, what with having to ram the wall down, not to mention legal ramifications. The humble pedestrian, conversely, can open doors, skip jauntily across stepping-stones in a stream, or even climb fences or walls.
2 - When walking long distances, dress in such a manner that you won't be tempted to murder anyone
When walking, the body goes through the same repetitive motions again and again, with every step. This means that slightly uncomfortable clothes, after moving uncomfortably on the same part of your body for every step you take, will become quite uncomfortable, and quite uncomfortable clothes will become maddening. Much like marriage, that which you don't even notice at first will, in time, have you pulling your hair out in great clumps, bemoaning the time you ever left your house wearing such an infuriating garment (or married such an irritating person), leaving you tempted to strip naked and walk down the street in your birthday suit (or get a divorce.)
3 - Wear good shoes
This is really, really important. Otherwise it wouldn't have been reiterated. So wear them. Good shoes, that is.
The Advantages of Pedestrianism
In view of the deep and rich historical background of walking, and in view of the hole in the ozone layer, which is significantly larger than the continent of Europe, this Researcher would like to challenge the reader to make it his or her personal obligation to walk every day, even if only for a few steps. The world, except for the gaseous and liquid parts of it, is open for you to walk on. Walking is free, unlike driving, which is increasingly expensive, it doesn't destroy the environment, and it is an extremely healthy and, if you have just the right brand of insanity, relaxing way of spending one's afternoon. Drive, and you'll get there. Walk, and you'll be glad you did, if only so you can sit down again afterwards.