I HAVE just been out for a walk with a man in Los Angeles. Or my fingers have. It was more of a laptop walk than a real walk. I spotted Chuck McCarthy in a feature on the Guardian website and then found him on Twitter.
That led me to a short film Chuck has made about his unusual line of work. In his promotional video, Chuck is wearing a white T-shirt that sports a hand-drawn logo proclaiming him to be the People Walker.
Now this sounds like one of those internet jokes that leave you tangled in the net of your own foolishness. But no, it all seems real enough. Rory Carroll of the Guardian went out for a walk with Chuck in what appeared to be the scrubby hills above Los Angeles. So perhaps the People Walker is kosher. I certainly hope so because this is a wonderful notion.
McCarthy, who is bearded, a little hefty and six foot two, is a bit-part actor who has yet to move beyond the bit part. So he was looking for something else to throw into the money mix. And that was when he thought of advertising himself as someone who would take other people for a walk.
“The more I thought about it the less crazy it seemed,” he told Rory Carroll. “I’ve been doing walks almost every single day for the past week and I’m getting repeat clients, which is what you want.”
In his promotional video, McCarthy says: “I was looking to make some extra money and I thought about walking dogs, but I didn’t want to pick up dog poop because who wants to do that?”
He charges $7 an hour to take people on walks. Nothing more to it than that. They walk and they talk, although some clients ask him not to wear the T-shirt. The number one question he is asked, apparently, is: Are you serious? And, yes, Chuck swears that he is.
One of his satisfied customers says in the video: “Sometimes people just need to go for a walk.” And those are some of the wisest words to be found anywhere.
Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the US, was a fan of walking, saying: “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”
Now I like that advice, even if you don’t often see the phrase ‘habituate yourself’ nowadays. Is that even something that one can do in public?
Not many people walk in the US and a fair few don’t here either. Years ago in our cul-de-sac south of Manchester, a neighbour would drive the short distance to the ‘sac’ to shout and tell her kids that their tea was ready.
It always surprises me when you meet someone who doesn’t walk; in the US the surprise arises more when you meet someone who does. Such as a long-dead president or a would-be actor who grew a menacing thicket of a beard so that he might be cast as a biker heavy.
I hope that Chuck McCarthy succeeds in this venture, as walking is sometimes seen as subversive in the US, where pedestrians are often not taken into account. The reaction of the average American to meeting someone who travels on foot is akin that of the average French person faced with a vegetarian.
But walking is good, as Chuck, Thomas Jefferson and I agree. Yes, we should all walk more. Not that I’ve had mud on my boots in a while. Memo to feet: start walking…