the town and the city
I live and work in the city and had friends from work who live in the suburbs. We used to take turns hosting little get-togethers. After several of these, I decided I don’t like driving out to the ’burbs. It always seems to take so much longer to get from point A to point B. I get out there by Niagara Falls Boulevard or Transit, and I feel like I’m crawling through a sea of cars. I look at people stopped at red lights and they all look annoyed. And it’s just mile after mile of malls and plazas, big box stores, and chain restaurants. Driving out there it dawned on me that I could be in virtually any suburb in America and the view would be substantially the same.
After a couple glasses of wine at a recent party, I gently brought up this observation. I was pounced on. “Oh, like the traffic lights in the city don’t suck,” I was reminded. “I know, I guess it’s frustrating everywhere,” I said. Others joined in. “I can’t wait to get in my car and go home after work,” said one. “You know Jim from accounting? He got mugged walking to his car after a Sabres game,” another added. “The city is a cesspool, plain and simple,” I was told. “I’m always nervous parking my car when we do these things at your house. When are you gonna move out here with us?”
I was shocked. It was like I didn’t know these people. “And do what?” I asked. “Drive around like all you dipshits to Best Buy and Wal-Mart, getting into arguments about whether to eat at Applebee’s or Red Lobster…pulling into my attached garage without seeing any of my neighbors and wondering what I should do next to my home theater system?” The room went quiet. Kelley, who works in production said: “If that’s how you really feel, why don’t you just leave?”
I did. I walked outside and discovered that my window had been smashed. The thief took a phone charger and messed up my glove compartment. I called the town police on my cell phone and waited. They arrived and took a report while their lights flashed. I could see people inside the party peeking out at the commotion, but nobody came out.
Now I can’t stand being around these people, and I have to work with them every day. What should I do?
The Straight Skinny: I suggest you call your hosts and tell them you are sorry, that you were out of line, because you were, and because it is the civilized thing to do. Then, listen to Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes” a couple of times, and let yourself feel smug, because you’re right: The city is wa-a-a-ay better.
The Practical Cogitator: Apologize. You should apologize to all of them. You have chosen to live in the city, and that’s best for you. They have chosen to live in the ’burbs, and that’s best for them. No one wants to hear that you hate where they live, or that you can’t stand the drive, the traffic or their neighborhood at large. Your co-workers have pride in their cul-de-sacs, their good schools, and the suburban services they receive. They also have pride in their home theaters. Making blanket negative generalizations about the community they have selected, invested in and invited you to visit is simply rude. You owe them all an apology.
The Omniscient One says: One of your friends said “When are you going to move out here with us?” Maybe they have a point. Pick six of your suburban friends and tell them you think you may be misjudging the suburbs and that you and your family would like to try living in the suburbs for six months. Ask each of the six to let your family crash at their pad for a month each. If you have any pets, make sure you bring them along, as well.
The Gay Perspective: You forgot to call them narcissistic bigots. Oh wait—that’s the wine talking. Apologize for your rude remarks. Explain that you were tired and vulnerable to your irritability, and of course, while you prefer city-living, you realize it’s not for everyone and you regret making such ridiculous and mean-spirited remarks. This will open the door for them to apologize too, if they care to—for what they said, and for abandoning you, knowing you had been the victim of a crime. Rarely should we share our private thoughts with co-workers. You’ve learned from this, but privately, I doubt that your suburban “friends” have. You don’t have to love these folks; you just need to get along with them.
Smart Money says: Those ridiculous twats! My suburban friends understand the city’s superiority. You need to work with a better class of people. Sabotage their lunches. It’s the only way these types will learn.
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