Almost every day when I walk to work, I get in race car mode. I hone in on the person in front of me and try to pass them. As soon as I do, then I focus in on the next person. If I see the pedestrian crossing is green or flashing green, that too fuels my steps. And, I must admit I have to convince myself not to get frustrated when I hit a pedestrian red light. Every day I check my watch as I clock my time. Okay, I have a problem: I’m a fast walker, not to be confused with a runner. My friend Leah (see here) mentioned that walking fast makes you stick out as an American. It suddenly clicked with me that all the people I’ve been rounding on the streets haven’t been worth 5 points–it’s not a game and it’s not something to get through as quickly as possible. For the Spanish people, it’s a promenade.
Today, I tried to walk slower. Funny thing is, when I got stuck behind some especially slow walkers for a few blocks, we hit every pedestrian crossing with a green light. A couple times, even in my attempt to walk slowly, I passed a mother and child. I got to the crossing with a red light and had to wait. Just as it turned green, the mother and child would cross at exactly the same time as me.
So, here’s my cultural lesson turned life lesson for the day: don’t rush through things that are meant to be enjoyed. The people here are teaching me how to savor a meal, a walk, and, even, a workday. I deeply desire to be efficient but not at the cost of missing the experience.
On a totally different note, I received an email this morning from a coworker in my department, Marta, inviting me to coffee at 11 (which was in about five minutes). My days are incredibly flexible–I almost never have appointments–so I was bummed because I was scheduled to meet with my boss right at 11. I emailed and suggested the next day instead, and then I got up to go meet with my boss. He needed to reschedule, so I immediately emailed back and said, actually, I’m free and I’m coming! Thrilled, I walked downstairs to meet her.
I walked to Marta’s desk and asked if she would like to get some coffee. She said she had already had some and asked if we could get coffee tomorrow. I was impressed that she had already had coffee–it was literally 11:01. I mean, I know the cups are smaller here, but still that was a quick break. Anyway, I gladly accepted her offer for coffee tomorrow, and I turned to go back to my office. On my way, another girl stopped me and said, “Oh, great! You came down for coffee!” I looked puzzled, I’m sure, and she said, “I’m Marta! I emailed you about having coffee.” I just smiled and accepted trying to explain my mishap to her. We both laughed and enjoyed a coffee break together. And, I get to have coffee with the other Marta tomorrow!