Tooling Down Cowper

by phil on Thursday Dec 16, 2004 12:16 AM

I'm trying to sharpen my skills at observational writing, and so I've been posting these expose's of the mundane in Palo Alto. The more mundane, the more interesting the challenge. Hope you don't mind.

Got my hand in my pocket, as I'm tooling down the sidewalk, down the decline of Cowper Street. The decline is about half a degree below horizontal, making me move half a degree faster, making my temperature rise half a degree sweatier.

Parallel to me, across the street and on the other sidewalk, is a mommy and her toddler, also rolling down Cowper. I tool and they roll, and together we go, in parallel, in the same direction, down Cowper Street.

The eager toddler is trying to yank free from mommy, already trying to escape. Mommy lets go, letting sweetie tool down Cowper all by herself.

But Cowper is intersected by the traffic-heavy, one-way, no stop-sign Homer Street.

10 paces away from Homer I enjoy the toddler's fumbling trot as I continue on my own, hand-in-pocket.

7 paces away and the kid's going faster than me. Okay, I'm a little impressed.

But 5 paces away and mommy is yelling, "Shelly! Stop running! Come back!"

3 paces away and I get the urge to do something. I scan the options. Can I run over the street in time? No. Can I yell at the kid? Perhaps. But am I gauging mommy's worriment properly? Why do I assume the kid is clueless? Afterall, mommy wouldn't let her kid go off irresponsibly, would she? Besides isn't there enough yelling going on? And if I scream and the crisis is averted, won't I look foolish? I might even frighten mommy and sweetie in the process. But I have to do something.

Awkwardly and automatically my right arm extends out, palms open wide, in an attempt to avert an accident through gesture.

1 pace away and mom yells, "Don't cross the street!"

0 paces and the lil' tike spontaneously turns right and into Homer's sidewalk. I see the toddler wobble away like a rapid penguin, while some SUVs thunder by in the opposite direction. Mommy glances at me and I drop my extended arm. I shrug my shoulders as if to say "kids these days" and then I put my hands back into my pockets. My final gesture is to rocket away, down Cowper, across Homer, and out of sight.

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