The Burger, the Uber, and the Safety Pin

My Uber’s been summoned and wow that Double Double was tasty. Just enough time to tell a quick story.

I had left the company gathering early. I had smiled enough and nodded enough and been seen by the right people enough and it was enough. I confided my plan to walk to In-n-Out for dinner.

A brisk 45 minute walk: Google knows the way.

I’m in a yawning industrial park. Sidewalks. Then eventually a frontage road.

At last, another pedestrian. He doesn’t look up as we pass each other.

A bridge across highway 237. The sidewalk is obstructed by detour signs. Are those footsteps behind me? Press on.

Across the bridge now. Google says turn right into a field. There’s no road here —

There it is. A bike trail. It leads down and curves back to follow the highway. It’s dark and cold and misty. Distant lights carve what gamers call “volumetric god rays” through the mist.

It’s pleasant. Ok well actually it’s a little eerie. A brown supermoon rises. It’s quiet and I am out in the world.

After a mile the freshly-oiled pavement ends, as does the reassuring series of yellow lines down the middle. It’s dark.

A creature rustles in the brush. Press on.

Rubble now. A discarded couch. Is that a sleeping person? Junk everywhere, unfamiliar silhouettes. Press on.

Parked in the distance, a dilapidated RV and a few cars. Further on I see a bright blueish white light, drawing nearer and nearer. As I approach I see that the RV’s hood is open; debris is everywhere. A small generator is running.

The distant light is a bicycle, a commuter coming the other way. The path goes through. I raise a friendly hand; it’s too dark to see how my gesture is received.

As I pass the camp, dogs begin to bark. Press on.

It occurs to me that the best meals come after new or challenging experiences. It’s going to be a good burger.

At last: reassuring voices from a sidewalk above. Hindi, I think. Emerging from the misty darkness, the path opens into a parking lot. A young couple cuddles in a Kia, laughing in the glow of the laptop they’re watching.

Crossing the street I see the brightly-lit emblems of my comfort zone: Hilton Garden Inn. Bank of America. Applebee’s. In-n-Out.

As I wait for my burger I think about —

Safety pins. About how effortlessly I can opt in and project an identity in support of folks for whom opting in or out of a struggle I barely comprehend is not part of the picture.

I opted to take a long walk tonight. When it got a little iffy — and it was probably not as iffy as my bubble made me feel — I opted to press ahead through my nervousness. I could have turned around and ordered room service. I could have had my Double Double delivered!

And now that I’ve enjoyed my burger and fries I can certainly walk back through the scary darkness. But instead I will press a button on my phone and someone will drive me back to my hotel.

I’m trying to internalize a faint glimpse into the life of a person who *must* walk a scary and legitimately dangerous path, because of who they are. They have to walk it both ways. In the dark. All the time.

I think about an immigrant who — in my own pinko liberal state of Oregon — cannot obtain or renew a driver’s license because she doesn’t have the right documents. Now any responsibility that was ten minutes away becomes an ordeal along a path that’s more dangerous than it would be for me. Uber’s not an option. Ordering in is not an option.

I scroll back to what I have written and I am chagrined at how much “I” and “me” I find. I remind myself that it’s not enough to agonize over metaphors or safety pins and that it is not. about. me. I have to act, and I have to act outside my comfort zone.

Anyway my Uber’s here. Gotta go.