By Thomas Skernivitz
Me? I walked. I walked when I wanted to. I walked when I had to. And all around me, people walked like I’ve never seen before.
My summer began with a long-overdue trip the morning of May 27. Five years overdue, to be exact. It was my honor to chaperone our oldest son to Grindstone Elementary, where he would be spending his final day as a fourth-grader and final day inside a still-new school that his kindergarten class had helped christen five years earlier. I wasn’t sure where all that time had gone, so on this day I was dedicated to milking those final moments. We took the long way there on a perfect May morning — a first-time/last-time walk across Berea that covered two miles and at least 30 minutes (I was counting). Along the way I told the boy how proud his parents were of him, but beyond that, we didn’t say much. Maybe, like his dad, he was simply soaking it all in as much possible. More than likely, he just wanted to get beyond school and into break as soon as possible. For me, the walk was the highlight of 2016 thus far. For him, it was just one of many more to come the rest of the summer.
The Fitbit craze had already reached our house last October, when my wife received one of the activity trackers for her birthday. Two months later our younger son convinced us that a second-grader could be responsible enough to don a $130 gadget around his wrist. By February, his aforementioned older brother had done likewise. As much as I can’t stand to see these kids attached to their devices (especially the expensive ones), their Fitbit devotion the last six months has been nothing short of remarkable. They regularly tally more than 20,000 “steps” a day, largely by walking. If they find themselves behind schedule (i.e., losing to a friend to whom they are connected), they venture outside well after dark and walk laps around the block. As much as I brag about being outside from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. as a youth in the 1970s, I don’t remember dedicating too much time to walking.
This summer — my 53rd — I’ve made up for all of that by walking more than ever. That’s great and all … except the plan was to jog rather than walk. It really is amazing how fast you can get out of shape at this age. I’ve never been able to cover my three-mile course too quickly, but I’ve also never had to stop to walk three or four times along the way. Fortunately, the Fitbit — I broke down and got one in July — doesn’t differentiate all that much. A step is a step. So, I try to keep up with my kids, but, at best, I top out at 15,000 on weekend days. On work days, it’s embarrassing to discover how inactive you are at your desk. Writing this column earned me about 26 steps, and that’s only because I had to go to the bathroom once.
Back in Berea, my family and I are by no means the only people taking to the streets these days. Since July we’ve been joined by hundreds of walkers who are partaking in the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. Apparently the Poké powers that be thought Coe Lake and Adams Street Cemetery would be fertile spots to play a virtual reality game. Those landmarks are so close to our house that even I can run to them sans walk break. It really is a bizarre sight — all of these people wandering around en masse with their smartphones at arm’s length in front of their otherwise oblivious minds. The only thing I can compare it to are those zombie scenes from “The Night of the Living Dead.” But at least they are walking, I suppose. At least they are outside, in this case getting to know my city of Berea. We have that much in common.
I hope yours was a good summer. Ours was nice. Maybe Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu was on to something when he said that meandering leads to perfection.
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