May 2, 2017 (Tuesday)

by Yule Heibel on May 1, 2018

Just moments ago, at 6:15am, I saw my neighbor get into her car to leave for work. The child will be still in bed, but breakfast will be laid out for him. Later, a neighbor will pick him up and ferry him, along with her own kid, to school. The job my neighbor commutes to is in a municipality just to the west of Boston; it’s a hellish long way that takes ages via public transit. If it were me, I’d move, but there are likely dozens of reasons for staying put here, chief among them the child’s local attachments.

It’s very wet this morning, a bit gloomy-looking Gloomy, gloaming – a perhaps benevolent, perhaps malevolent light trying to pierce through the even-stubborned clouds. It’s raining, which means I’ll probably drive W. to the station lest he melt in the rain.

I keep thinking about my neighbor. I wouldn’t want to organize my life like this. It is what I hate about how the American “dream” often seems to work: it’s binary. It’s either on or off (and gods know when it’s “on,” it’s often enough a nightmare rat race). In urban metros like this, very few people get to have the dream career without sacrificing insane numbers of hours commuting. The spatial distribution is all wrong. My neighbor wants not just a good job, she wants a great job. But great jobs involve commuting crazy distances, spending crazy hours. If she found a merely “okay” job locally, the sense of “I’m having a career” might wither (along with the paycheck, for the money is better in some clusters than others)… and then she might have to reconfigure her whole existence. The price of the better career is this hellish (imo) life in the car (and on transit).

On Saturday, during the mini-heatwave, I mowed the lawn. My neighbor stopped by to chat. We covered a range of topics, including gas leaks and streets that look like they’re deforming before our eyes. We talked about all the property tax we pay, and where’s the money going, anyway? I mentioned my annoyance re. street/ traffic noise on E.-St., and she said she “can’t” hear it. I mentioned my annoyance at those shit dogs at the corner of E.-St. and P, which bark constantly, and she said she has never heard them.

I was starting to think that I’m crazy.

Just then the dogs began barking (again), and I asked, “Don’t you hear that?” We weren’t even at the back of our houses, where it’s louder. We were standing on the sidewalk out front, yet we could hear them loud and clear. “Oh,” she replied, “now I hear them, yeah.”

So only after I pointed it out did she notice.

Later, I thought that the reason she perhaps doesn’t notice is because when she’s not in her house, she’s in her car, going here and there. To notice these things is not within her – and most people’s – realm of affordances.

You can’t afford to notice the periphery when your lifestyle forces you to have tunnel vision.

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