There are places in America where walking makes you a freak. As though, in opening your mouth to speak, you're revealed to be antihuman. Makes you Suspect. Like a criminal casing the joint for easy pickings. Or, makes you un-American. Wholesomeness is driving to where you are going. Taking a bus is irresponsible. It is leaching off the highway system by not adding to its one-driver-per-car congestion.
I am a freak, am a suspect, am un-American.
At least in Overland Park, Kansas, I am these things. Stealing my walk light from an encroaching SUV, I cross the wide paved quadrant at which I've been unceremoniously dropped (by the JOCO bus line that prides itself on being seldom seen). I have hours to kill before a job interview. The day promised to be sunny and windy, better for a journey like this than the rain of the past few days.
Professional dress for the afternoon's interview with a company whose website I visited and consented to the interview anyway is unassuming navy check pants, neutral sweater set and shoes comfortable for walking, since I was also scheduled for an evening retail shift.
So, even though I'm traversing sidewalks no one else seems to know exist, I look not too out-of-place. I am respectable. For being a freak, a suspect, and un-American.
For a place I find inherently evil, just plain wrong in its development, Johnson County is, restaurant chains and wide lanes aside, a sprawl of low-skied prairie and Technicolor green lawns. There were birds chirping. There were lawnmowers humming, though I saw no one actually mowing. It would have seemed the greens were mowing themselves.
Except for silhouettes in passing cars, and in the Applebee's where I ordered a Long Island Tea, I saw no humans.
A call to one of my agencies, the one that sent me to this hellish tip of ersatz Eden, confirms that the position for which I was being interviewed was pulled. No interview. No matter. I had, after walking a mile from the bus stop to the intended destination, felt obliged to call in to say that I would be stranded at end of business each day. So, what was the point of interviewing for a job that I couldn't accept?
The agency had left me a message approximately an hour after I left to catch the bus to take me to the interview. If not for wasted day and the small expanse of red on my upper chest from sun exposure, I could see the humor of it all.
Abdul saved me.
For some reason, I attract the attention of cab drivers, mainly those from the Middle East. I recall their names, what they're studying, etc.
I was on my way to a Mariott, one of the many hotel chains in the area - making me doubly grateful I'd not worn a skirt! - to get a coffee when Abdul called out to me. He'd just dropped off someone for a seminar. He asked if I needed a cab. I told him that my return bus arrived in an hour - it was 3 in the afternoon - and, besides, I only had 15 bucks on me. He waved how ridiculous I was being; I opened the cab gratefully. Once inside, I asked Abdul to open the windows he had just shut. I always prefer an open window - moving air - to static air of conditioning.
Abdul consented; I murmured my thanks. On the way back into the city, I almost fell asleep.