Today was October 13. And here in Upstate New York, the temperature must have been in the upper 70s.

There was pro football on TV and a Sunday newspaper to glance through, but this touch of summer on an autumn day drew me to my bicycle. I admit that sometimes Sunday afternoon becomes a Sabbath break from my daily exercise, but not today. I decided a quick trip or two around the neighborhood would not only keep up some semblance of an aerobic routine, but I could savor the gift of a very mild October day. More than pleasant; this day was stunning!

So, I rode. And the streets were so quiet. I pedaled up some slight hills and coasted down. I enjoyed the newly paved blacktop of some parts of the neighborhood roads, thankful that the road construction that had caused a neighbor’s serious bike accident a couple of month ago was now complete, and the surfaces were smooth.

After the first circuit through our development, I realized that the streets were a little too quiet.

On this glorious fall day, with some leaves still holding onto limbs for dear life, and turning bright colors in the process, there was no one in sight. No one. All right, that’s an exaggeration. There was one guy running a leaf blower in his backyard. But that was it. One guy.

I started around again. I went as far as the gravel road that leads from our neighborhood to the bordering farm, and I counted three horses and saw some cows. (I rang my bell at the critters, noticing that the cows looked up, but the horses ignored me.) But I saw no human beings.

I rode back to the paved roads, passed by house after house, and encountered no children playing in yards or streets, and no adults outside enjoying the gorgeous afternoon. For the heck of it, I counted the homes in our area and got to 90…and finally saw a woman in her garden. Grand total of people in my neighborhood outside on this warm, lovely fall day? Two.

By the time I completed the six mile circuit, having thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and having gotten up a bit of a sweat, a third neighbor appeared to do some yard work.  But not one child. No one else on a bike, no one throwing a football, no one just sitting on a front step.

I put my bike back on the rack in the garage and lamented the apparent addiction that has captured not only the imaginations of my younger neighbors, but their bodies too. I doubt the neighborhood kids were all inside doing homework. Surely their parents and the older adults whose kids are grown and moved away — surely all my neighbors weren’t indoors reading, napping, or conversing around the table at 3 p.m. on this Sunday afternoon. No, I suspect something more sinister: ipods, ipads, electronic i-dols of various descriptions…computers…and those LCD flat screens… games that demanded no more than some finger touches or rapt attention between commercials — that would explain why I was almost alone, taking a bike ride on a warm autumn afternoon on a street too quiet.

Sad, the death of a neighborhood. So sorry for our loss. 

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