Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

As you may have noticed, I have a soft spot for Baltimore. I was planning to tell one of these stories before I visited Baltimore last month, but faced with a startlingly different approach to pedestrian activity, I feel compelled to tell both stories together.

Gaithersburg
Like most 9-to-5ers, I've started going to the gym directly after work. As such, I drive down the street, park, and hit the gym. Most of us are harried, stressed out, and visibly irritated as we approach the facility, and I admit that in this state, I've provided the bare minimum in pleasantry.

I was approaching the main entrance last week when a minivan, driven by a woman in her 40s tore through the lot before coming to an abrupt halt at the small crosswalk connecting the gym's entrance to the lot's premium crossing. The van stopped short to two older women carrying yoga mats. They looked up and hurried across the width of the van's bumper as the driver honked and yelled at the women. (I didn't get the exact words, but it was along, "GET OUT OF THE WAY.") The passenger, a young woman in her teens, gestured wildly and yelled too.

Everyone in the lot stared, and when the woman sped past we stared at each other for a few moments before the women asked us, the crowd, what they had done wrong, and why the woman was upset.

Another gym-goer said, well, obviously, we're in the way.

I'm slowly getting used to this way of thinking, by the way.

Baltimore
A roller derby player and I park, separately, on a city street near the 83 overpass and begin walking, separately, to Bourbon Street for the Baltimore City Paper Best of Baltimore Party. (I'm a sometimes research assistant.)

We wait for the lights and take to the crosswalk when it's our turn, crossing in front of a large, shiny SUV. It has one tire just over one of the crosswalk lines, and because it is so shiny (and large) I'm careful not to get too close. (I was raised to be careful about scratching cars. That episode of Mad Men where Don gets the new car? That's my childhood.) Just as the woman in front of me passes the bumper, the driver leans out of his car and says, "I'm so sorry ladies."

I told him it was no problem, I could walk around.

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