Going for a Walk

Used to be, if you went for a walk, you just opened the door and went out. No more. To go for a walk these days is a technological production, not quite as complex as a space shot, but getting there.

Yesterday I decided to walk from the Cathedral in Hartford to the State Library. It’s about half a mile but I hadn’t walked that way before and wasn’t sure of the route, so I took my Global Positioning Satellite (GPS). It’s a compact little rectangle and fits neatly in my jacket pocket.

I was expecting a call from someone who was trying to get me scheduled for a talk, so the cell phone went in the other pocket. I needed to be back at the cathedral by late afternoon, so I put my pocket watch, an older technology, in my pants pocket.

And since I was now thinking in those terms, I pondered a less spectacular technology as I put a ball point pen in another jacket pocket.

James W. C. Pennington, the subject of my current research, would have had none of that technology when he set out to walk across Hartford in the 1840s. If he wasn’t sure of his directions, he would have stopped to ask someone. If he needed to make an appointment for a talk, he would have sent a letter and it would have been there in 24 hours. If he needed to know the time, he might have had a pocket watch (they were invented in the late 15th century), but pocket watches only became widely used in the latter part of the 19th century when railroads kept strict schedules and people traveling by train needed to know the exact time. More likely, Pennington would have known the time nearly enough by looking at the sun. As for a writing implement, he would have had one at home and seldom needed one elsewhere.

And when I got to the State Library, I had to take all these things out of my pockets and put them in a tray while I walked through a screening gate so they could be sure I wasn’t also carrying a bomb.


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