Friday, March 6, 2009

from the file of "things my roommate says"

AS ALWAYS: Check out my weekly column in the Diamondback, U-Md.'s independent student newspaper.

Suburban kids, taking a hike through Orchard Center in Calverton.

At a late dinner Saturday night, my roommate (with whom I did the Purple Line Diaries with last summer) explains he lived in Montgomery Village until elementary school. We had just come from seeing another show at Scumbag Nation in Colesville. "You know, Silver Spring reminds me a lot of the Village," he says.

I scrunch up my face. Montgomery Village is a big planned community, like Columbia or Reston but on a smaller scale. Silver Spring has grown in fits and starts for nearly two hundred years, not unlike an actual city. "How so?" I inquire.

"Well, Montgomery Village is very big," he replies, "and it's near a city, Rockville."

What? I was willing to humor the idea that Montgomery Village is "big" (big compared to where my roommate's family eventually moved to, though its 38,000 residents don't compare to the quarter-million people who have Silver Spring addresses), but do people Upcounty really consider Rockville and its strip malls to be "the City"? How does that work?

I never lived in D.C., but I grew up there, visiting family, eating out, going to West Potomac Park. When I was very young, my mother and I delivered food to Martha's Table, the homeless shelter on 14th Street, about once a week. As a result, the District became (and continues to be) the center of the world in my head. It makes me very curious how these kinds of experiences - urban versus suburban, and so on - shape a person's thinking as they grow up.

Having spent a lot of time in the city, I've become more inclined to use public transportation; my roommate, who didn't have those experiences, can joke that "white people don't ride the bus." The flip side, of course, is that he can pitch a tent because he did Boy Scouts, and my outdoor experiences were generally limited to the playground in Woodside Park.

It's a trade-off. Neither kid is worse off, I think, but they have very different sets of tools for perceiving/dealing with the world. The comments from Cavan's recent post on Greater Greater Washington about kids and cities sets up this dichotomy pretty well.


Unknown said...

Looking at the comments in my post, it seems that most 20 and 30 somethings who were raised in car-dependent parts who commented want to make sure that their kids never have to put up with such alienation.

I sure fall into that category. I hoped to make a point when I wrote the piece. I ended up striking a nerve.

I get slightly jealous when I'm walking around Silver Spring or Georgetown or Clarendon and I see teenagers. They have no idea how lucky they are to able to walk to such swanky places with so many amenities at their age. It's a little slice of heaven.

Thomas Hardman said...

Rockville is "the City" because it has MetroRail stations.