Two days each week for the past few years, the National Library of Medicine’s Allen Browne has taken the long way home—5 miles on foot, to his house on the Takoma Park side of Silver Spring.
Perhaps you have seen him walking east on Jones Bridge Rd., then along the Capital Crescent Trail, past Lyttonsville into downtown Silver Spring. Any way you slice it, it’s a schlep.
NLM’s Allen Browne
“I do it for the exercise, and I enjoy the walk,” says Browne, a linguistics expert who has been at the library since 1986 as a member of the Lister Hill Center’s Cognitive Science Branch.
A 3-year Army hitch in South Korea, where he learned the language, prompted his interest in language studies. He earned a master’s degree in socio-linguistics from Georgetown University after majoring as an undergrad there in linguistics. Now part of the lexical systems group at Lister Hill, he is busy “getting computers to work with natural language, in this case English.”
On the days when he walks, usually Tuesday and Thursday, his wife drives him to NLM in the morning. “The car ends up making the trip back and forth whether I walk or not, so I’m not saving gas or the environment,” he laughs.
The hike takes him about 2 hours, “or 2½ hours on a nice day when I look at flowers and birds and things. I always tell people that a half hour of [my commute] is standing at stop lights.”
He has considered going even greener by taking the bus to work on walk-home days, “but that involves getting up too early in the morning.”
Browne is grateful to have an office with a door, which permits him, in summer, to change into shorts and a T-shirt for the walk. The long, leisurely commute exposes him to many fellow walkers and bikers. “I’ve met lots of interesting people,” he said. “And I love to meet dogs.”
He also hears from his friends, who pass him by on the road. “I used to get offered rides,” he said, but that would defeat his purpose.
Because he bears a resemblance to the late Grateful Dead lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, Browne gets those comments as well.
“I always say that I look a lot better than [Garcia] does, because he’s dead,” he chortles.
If you have an alternative mode of commuting to and from NIH, especially in this era of burgeoning BRAC-related congestion, let the NIH Record know and perhaps we can arrange a brief interview.—Rich McManus