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Open Mic: P-Walking in Marin

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Photo: Kane Reinholdtsen/Unsplash

A funny thing happened on the way to buy my daily scratcher. I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop, a first for me. Here’s the funny part. I wasn’t driving a car or any other wheeled form of transportation. I was walking.

This is not a story about racial profiling. I am a 68-year-old white man living in an upscale community where 68-year-old white men are a dime a dozen. And, as the motorcycle’s blue and reds flashed before me, I couldn’t remember having robbed any banks of late. So, for what it’s worth, I felt no trepidation, no concern for my safety as he rolled to a stop and said, “Hi there. Everything okay?”

It took me just a second to correctly assess the situation. I wasn’t guilty of J-walking, a known gateway crime leading to even more flagrant pedestrian violations. No, I was P-walking, and P-walking can look a lot like someone about to disturb the peace or urinate on an azalea, i.e., a drunk. You see, I have Parkinson’s Disease and if I’m not paying attention, my creative walking style might include a dip here and a weave there and a do-si-do, if the mood strikes. In other words, at 11am, I can do a perfectly adequate impersonation of an old man on a bender.

The conversation: “I’m fine. Is it because of my walking?” He nodded. I explained that I had PD, not a fifth with breakfast. He quickly switched from stern/inquisitive to sympathetic/just here to help. With a friendly salute, he rolled away to go after the more serious crimes plaguing our community—gas leaf blowers.

Up until that morning I convinced myself that, with meds working, no one would guess I have Parkinson’s. Well, my meds were working, and yet I managed to interest one of Marin’s finest. A pretty serious wake-up call. I’m not ashamed of my disease, and at times I even enjoy the physical jazz my body performs. I just thought I had more time in the shadows.

David Bickart lives in Marin County. To have your topical essay considered for publication, write to us at openmic@bohemian.com.