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Brad McElhinny: Of sidewalks and sensitivity

By Brad McElhinny, Editor and Publisher

“Get out of the road, idiot!”

That’s what the guy yelled out the open window of his pickup truck as he blew past.

He was not the courtesy patrol.

He was yelling at me.

I can’t quibble much with the accuracy of his command. I was in the road. Actually, the turning lane.

I do contend the statement is redundant. If you’re in the road, you’re probably an idiot.

I wish I’d thought quickly. I wish I’d pulled off my shoe and thrown it at the truck.

Instead, I trudged on and thought about what the man had said.

I was in the turning lane for a reason. My car was in the tire shop at Sam’s Club. A wayward nail deflated a front tire.

I live close enough to walk back to pick up the car, so that’s what I did. The trouble is, there are no sidewalks. For a while, I walked alongside the road, but my path was hilly and bumpy. So I moved to the turning lane, which wasn’t being used much by actual vehicles.

“Get out of the road, idiot!”

How is it we’ve developed these perfect villages -- Southridge Center has all the groceries, gasolines and haircuts you need to survive -- without paths to walk from place to place?

Because you want to put stuff in your trunk and drive it home, I guess.

So how’d we get to the point where we shout our anger at strangers from moving vehicles?

I’d like to think my new buddy was watching out for my safety but there was nothing like that in his tone. He certainly didn’t swing back around to offer me a ride. I felt sorry for that guy.

Isolation, I tell you. It’s not nice.

At least that’s what I might tell you if we were ever face-to-face. If we’re in our cars, I’ll probably just honk and mean the same thing.

I had a lot longer to walk, so I moved back to the grassy, bumpy, hilly area beside the road and thought about sidewalks, the angry guy and Kurt Vonnegut.

The last couple of Vonnegut books I read dealt a lot with community. Vonnegut believed in being in one.

Here’s what he said in one novel, “Timequake,” except he mixed it around with strange characters and time travel:

“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”

Got that, truck man?

It’s graduation season, and Vonnegut was a big graduation speaker. Here’s what he said at a ceremony in 1974:

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

That’s something to think about. Just don’t think about it while you’re walking in the road.

And for goodness sakes, don’t yell it out your truck window.

Brad McElhinny is editor of the Charleston Daily Mail. He may be reached at 304-348-5124. His blog about the newsroom is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/editorsdesk.


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