Nobody walks in LA - or anywhere!

By Andrea Karim on 10 May 2007 (Updated 9 June 2007) 6 comments

There's a saying that no one ever walks anywhere in Los Angeles. Apparently, that idea has been imported to where I live. Now if only we could get a King Taco.

I just started up a contracting job with a little company named Microsoft. My new team is relegated to a building that's pretty old - such is the case with the less sexy projects at the First Evil Empire (Starbucks is the Second, in case you didn't already know the rankings).

Microsoft has lots of campuses all over the Puget Sound... actually, all over the world. I happen to be located on a large campus in Redmond that apparently isn't even the main one. This company is too big for me to wrap my brain around right now.

Anyway, for contractors, it can take some time to get up and going at Microsoft, what with all the security and passcodes and email aliases and what not. Due to some delays, I found myself this morning with nothing to do, no internet connection, and an hour to kill before my boss arrived. So I went for a walk.

If I were headed to another building at Microsoft, I might have taken a shuttle, depending on how far away it was. But I just needed to meander around and enjoy some fresh air before buckling down and being chained to my desk for the rest of the day. And today is a mild, sunny, lightly breezy day.

I have this weird thing about business parks - I really, really like them. Yes, they are soulless and sterile and eerily quiet at times. Yes, sometimes all of the employees who stream out of the building at lunch time start to look the same. But my house, the place where I live, is located near a major freeway. During the warmer months, intoxicated college kids, various vagabonds, and at least one convicted peeping tom are known to take nightime naps on my walkway, scaring the bejesus out of me as I return from an evening out. Garbage trucks roar through the alley every morning - it's not a quiet place. Comparatively, business parks are like, well, like parks. Quiet, tree-lined, clean. The vegetation in the Pacific Northwest can be beautiful to behold, with the occasional stand of towering evergreens. Where there's landscaping, it is green and simple.

You might think that all of this raving about the natural and landscaped beauty of Redmond, WA is overblown. I'm only sharing it because walking, for me, is usually an energizing yet relaxing experience. It didn't seem like an unusal activity to participate in.

First of all, on a 30-minute walk that passed at least seven different companies, I saw only one other person on foot. He was walking fast, with his head down, like he didn't want to be seen. But there were plenty of cars out and about. Lots of single drivers, many of them Microsoft employees, getting around in their Suburbans and Explorers and Land Cruisers.

I got stared at. A lot. As far as I could gather, there was nothing hanging from my nose or growing out of my ears. I'm not the kind of woman who turns heads, so it wasn't striking beauty that was blinding these drivers. Nor am I so hideously deformed that I garner any kind of unusual attention.

I stopped by a corner gas station to throw out an empty milk carton that I had found on the sidewalk - that act garnered many, many stares from everyone who was filling up.

I was dressed normally. I had showered this morning. My fly was up.

I was, quite simply, and anomaly. Someone walking around this part of Redmond? Very unusual.

Once back on campus, I was startled when one of the Priuses that serves as a Microsoft shuttle slowed down as the driver gestured to me. He rolled down the window and asked if I was looking for something. When I explained that I was just out walking, he sort of shook his head and drove away. I started to wonder if perhaps I should be on the look out for bears or some other dangerous wildlife. Why else would everyone be so shocked to see someone walking around?

While eating my lunch in our breakroom a couple of hours later, a maintenance technician paused on his way out the door and asked, "Didn't I see you walking around earlier?"

I wasn't sure that he was addressing me. "Are you talking to me?" My very best Robert De Niro impression.

"Yeah. I saw you out earlier, just walking around and around the parking lot."

"I was actually walking through the parking lot, but yeah, that was me."

"Do you even work here?"

This one baffled me. You have to have a cardkey in order to get into the building, and have to have security clearance to, say, eat lunch by yourself without a chaperone.

"Yes, I work here."

"In this building?"

"I just started."

"But you were out in the parking lot."

I honestly didn't know what to say to this. I hadn't been warned against walking across a parking lot on my way into or out of a building.

He gave me a stern look for a couple more seconds, and then left through the back door of the lunchroom.

Great. One walk around the block, and I was clearly seen as a crazed homeless person camping out in the breakroom with a stolen badge.

How did we get the point where walking actually makes you appear as though you were up to no good?

I don't hate cars. I love my car. I drive a lot to places that I can't reach on foot. But since when did walking become such a suspect activity?

I'm going to try to start a walking group here, to see if I can't bring back the walk.

(Photo by extranoise)

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Maly's picture
Maly

that is ridiculous! Microsoft is persecuting walkers!!

Guest's picture
pikovaya

...at least on the main campus, and on sunny days, you'd see a lot of people out walking. I rarely, if ever, took the shuttle, unless it was raining hard -- and when does it rain hard in Seattle? Walking was often a lot faster, too. Not everyone did it, but enough people that it wasn't bizarre.

But I can't speak for the other campuses. The more newly-acquired ones in the office parks may be a little weirder to walk around.

Andrea Karim's picture

That I don't think that it's most campuses, and certainly not Microsoft that persecutes walkers. I wasn't trotting around the main campus, but I was walking down a normal street. But the guy who grilled me in the lunch room wasn't a Microsoft employee - he was a tech who was there for some machine maintenance from another company. So I'm not trying to paint Microsoft in a bad light.

Yet. :)

Jessica Okon's picture

I'm going to be singing Missing Persons "Walking in LA" ALL DAY LONG NOW!

 

Guest's picture
ania

HAha...now that's amusing. Keep walkin'! :)