• Peter Lyons teaches at St Peter's College in Epsom.
I walk to work. For many years I had little choice. I refused to get a swipe card for the buses. It was too great a commitment for a middle aged bachelor. I resented the fact they resented me using my coinage for the fare.
The coinage now accumulates in a bucket in my bedroom. A good chunk of New Zealand's coin supply resides beside my dressing table. Occasionally I remember to fish some out to fund my flat whites. The Asian lady at the local cafe takes great delight in calling out "fat white" whenever I enter.
So I walk each morning. I could train but can't bring myself to return after being banned several years ago. I made a one-man protest refusing to pay my fare due to the shoddy service.
I was escorted from the train in Kingsland. I felt that Auckland rail network needed a Gandhi. The other commuters stared out with dull resignation. My students who were aboard were mortified with embarrassment.
So I walk each morning. I am unable to drive because I am partially sighted. I have little doubt this is a source of my contrary nature as I age. Failing sight emphasises the finiteness of it all. It reinforces the recognition that most frustrations are trivial in the face of our mortality. Just get on with it and enjoy as much as possible. Particularly people. He tanga ta, He tanga ta.
An amusing aspect of walking to work each morning along a major arterial route is how many people spot you and comment. Their comments are generally positive.
They compliment me on my dedication to exercise and alternative commuting. They often state they wish they had the willpower or motivation. A few comment on how I manage to walk so far each day yet still retain the girth of a small planet. These are generally closer colleagues.
I have come to love walking to work. The connection with the elements awakens me. It invigorates me before I commence my working day. I enjoy the characters I encounter along the way.
The panelbeaters starting their day with a quick smoke, the flouro vested lady who does the litter in Kingsland, the shapely young thing who outpaces me through Newton. I am not sure if her pace is natural or inspired by fear.
If I could drive to work I probably still would. But I am fortunate that is not an option. I am spared the frustration of sitting in traffic. I get to interact with the natural world rather than sit in a hermetically sealed bubble to kick start my day. It sets me up for the day. I'm no Pollyanna but this works for me.
I love the smell of roasted coffee beans from the various cafes I pass. I enjoy the rain and wind. It makes the day real before I arrive at work to spend the day indoors. The smells from the various bakeries along the route offer temptation that I seldom resist.
I arrive at work pumped for the day. My iPod is blaring subversive music. The last stretch is past the prison in Boston Rd. My freedom contrasts with theirs. Several years ago I was amused to see knotted sheets scaling the outside wall. Evidence of the sudden departure of an unwilling tenant.
I would recommend walking to work to all commuters if it is possible. Five to six kilometres is feasible in an hour using good punk music or bad disco to set the pace. Reggae would take a little longer. Rap less so.
Over time walking becomes as habitual as using the car with none of the associated costs and inconveniences. It is likely the most common sense exercise available to many of us. Walking to work has the potential to be a win-win for all.