What I learned this week…

What I learned this week in a lot of ways is just a confirmation of what I’ve known my entire adult life – and that’s that I have absolutely no interest in ever living in a city. Yes, I’m aware my disinterest in city living means I’m “missing out” on untold cultural opportunities, fine dining, education, and whatever else it is that attracts people to live in America’s dense urban centers. I’ve made my peace with being able to access those opportunities as needed from a distance if I ever really need to avail myself of them.

I’m not built for living in a place that prides itself on ginning up ever increasing population density or warehousing people stacked 20 floors deep with a thousand next door neighbors. I’m not a great outdoorsman, but I can’t fathom living somewhere my only outdoor space is ten feet of concrete sidewalk or the part six blocks away that can be closed at a moment’s notice by executive fiat. When I want access to green space, I like the option of walking across my own yard and being there – already with the forest at my doorstep.

As much as I like “home,” finding myself confined to a few hundred square feet indefinitely is the stuff of nightmares. I despised riding DC’s Metro a lifetime ago when I commuted into the District for work. The idea that it, filled with plague victims with no other options, would be my only reasonable means of transportation, sounds definitively awful. If nothing else, the Great Plague has reinforced my already deep belief in the value of elbow room between me and the next closest neighbor.

Cecil County is just far enough away that it won’t likely be a bedroom community for Baltimore or Philadelphia any time soon… but the growth of housing developments and apartment complexes along the county’s main routes undeniably means that people are finding their own reason to live here. I’ve been here long enough to notice the daily increase in traffic to and from the major outlying areas of employment. It’s already feeling just a little bit too crowded for my tastes.

I’m happy enough where I am for the time being. State land and large lots will do their part to prevent too much crowding. Once I don’t need to make residency decisions based on proximity to an employer, though, the gloves are coming off. If I’ve learned nothing else from watching the news unfold these last few weeks, it’s that I well and truly have no business living or working inside of one of America’s great Petri dishes. I’m sure it’s fine for some people, but it’ll be a hard pass for me.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bathroom stall phone calls. Yes, you’re sitting down and probably bored, but the shitter in the public restroom really isn’t a conference room. And yet at least once a week I walk into the one down the hall from my little section of cube farm and there’s someone holed up in one of the stalls having a full blown conversation. First, it’s the one room in the building where I can mostly go to escape pointless conversation. Secondly, whoever you’ve got on the other end of the line doesn’t need to hear you dropping the kids off at the pool. Lastly, you can save the stink eye, because every time I walk in there and find you on the phone, I’m going to fart, belch, whistle a jaunty tune, and generally be as loud, obnoxious, and passive aggressive as possible… because I dare you to say something to justify yourself in the eyes of gods and men.

2. City slickers. In Paul Krugman’s recent screed in the New York Times, Getting Real About Rural America, his thesis seemed to be that things could get better if only people in rural America started thinking more like people living in urban America. The catch, of course, is that I’ve made the conscious decision to live in rural America precisely because it doesn’t think (or behave) like urban America. I could have just as easily decided to live in Baltimore, Wilmington, or Philadelphia but none of those places support the kind of lifestyle or the quality of life that’s important to me. If the capital “D” Democratic Party ever wants to make serious inroads into the vast swath of country beyond reliably Democratic voting cities and inner suburbs, they’re going to have to come up with a far better argument than “you should just think like us.” The day I declare I want to give up wide open ground, backyard wildlife, towering oaks, no traffic, and idyllic quiet for “everything the city has to offer,” consider this my written permission to begin proceedings to have me psychologically committed. 

3. Recognition. After spending the better part of six months mixed up in delivering a final product that’s “rolling off” the proverbial line next week, there’s nothing more cheering that sitting in a meeting where one of the Gods on Olympus turns to you quizzically and asks, “Ummm, why are you here?” Oh, no particular reason, I saw a meeting forming up and I didn’t have anything else to do this hour so I thought I’d hang. I don’t ever do things for public credit to see my name in lights – in fact I actively avoid those things. Still, though, sometimes it might be nice to know it’s recognized that I’m not just wandering the halls lacking anything better to do. You can just color my morale well boosted today.

Right back where we started from…

Suffice to say that I have decided not to peruse the house in rural Tennessee that I had been drooling over last weekend. Upon further reflection, I determined that I was not quite willing to give up the comforts of Starbucks, $.99 dry cleaning, dining, and other options that are available living closer to the a major urban center. I think I liked the idea of living in the country more than I liked the actual prospect of doing it.

Houses are a little like women in that you never really seem to forget your first love. So, my friends, we’re going back to the beginning of this little saga… to the little house, on a tree-lined street, that started it all. After further review, I need to disregard the god-awful paint that the current owner has inflicted on the place and marvel instead at the original woodwork. The place apparently comes complete with individual and neighborhood listing on the National Register and is about as respectable an area in Memphis as you’re going to find… You can make you jokes about Memphis being the 2nd (or 4th) most dangerous city in America, but this is an area of college professors and white collar “old house people.” The first time I saw the place, I was bowled over by how much hadn’t been changed. Tomorrow I’m going in to find the warts.

Wish me luck.

A Difference in Perspective…

One of the things that I note on nearly all of my trips to Western Maryland is the overall difference in price of “going out” there versus going out in the DC/Baltimore area.

Here’s a handy comparison for both (all prices are per person):

1. Dinner – WMD: $15; WDC: $75
2. Dance – WMD: Included in price of dinner; WDC: $15-20 cover
3. Beer – WMD: $1.25/domestic bottle; WDC: $3.50/domestic bottle
4. Liquor shot – WMD: $2.00; WDC: $5.00
5. Distance from bed – WMD: No more than 5 miles; WDC: 30-35 miles (including a drunken Metro ride or add $20 for parking)

So, in computing the totals, we find that an evening in WMD breaks down to the following costs: $15 for dinner and dance, $20 for beer and tips, $5 for shots, and $1 for gas. Grand total: $41.00. For WDC, the breakdown is as follows: $75 for dinner, $15 cover, $45 for beer and tips, $10 for shots, and $10 for gas and metro fare and parking fee. Grand total: $155.

As you can see, they both have their selling points.