01 May 2008

Thick Skin Required in City

I posted a poem yesterday about the anonymous people we pass on the street each day, not because it was a great poem, but because it expressed an important sentiment about city life. Namely that we may not know each other, but we are important to each other.

Now depending on what neighborhood we are in and how well known we are in that neighborhood the dynamics of walking down the street can vary dramatically.

Having lived in my neighborhood for many years, it is hard for me to step out of the door without having to commence some small talk with a neighbor. Sometimes that is a joy, sometimes if I'm running late, it is annoying. I think one attribute of a great neighbor is their ability to show genuine friendliness without talking for a long time. Sometimes, just a wave is nice.

But the great majority of passersby on the street are complete strangers and of course this is more true the further away from home we are or the bigger the city. I think one thing that turns suburbanites off to the city life, is their inability to deal with strangers.

You don't need to be nice to every stranger. God knows they won't all be nice to you. Some people will even give you an evil eye or curse you. My advice is to have a thick skin. If someone is rude to you, do NOT take it personally, and do not respond in kind. Rude people are like other kinds of pollution, an irritant that you shouldn't let ruin your day.

One local blogger recently wrote about how many people he meets on the street who are friendly:

...I would nod my head and say "Hey, hows it goin?" If they acknowledge me with a response, a nod, anything but a cold stare, they went down on the "friendly" side of my counter. If they just walked by or ignored me, I clicked em in on the "unfriendly" side of the counter ... by the time I had hit Liberty, I had encountered 126 people, and had 71 positive responses. I had 5 conversations for a few minutes, and shook a few hands as well.


Julie said...

My friendliness meter is way off, now. I am a pretty friendly person; when someone says hi to me, I at least smile. If I'm walking down a busy street and someone acknowledges me, I always say something-- but I'm finding myself less inclined if I'm alone, because the guy who robbed me asked me how I was doing before he pulled the gun. Isn't it strange how a couple of moments change the way you interact with people?

WestEnder said...

I have new neighbors (two young women) who are the complete opposite of friendly. They NEVER say hello or even smile.

CityKin said...

Sometimes people just want to be left alone, and I can appreciate that. There are thousands of others to be freindly with...

julie, I can definitely sympathise. I was jumped once after a freindly hello, and often a hello turns into a request for 39cents, which is a whole 'nother post. Plus there are some very unstable and drugged out people on the streets of OTR and it is important to keep your wits while walking and choosing where to walk.

One reason I like where I live is that the street almost always has people around. Of course that is no guarantee of safety, but it does help make the scene more civil.

The different dynamics of walking alone, as a couple, or in a group is interesting. As a younger man, I think I used to prefer walking alone, as I could speed up or strategize my path easier. Now I think I prefer to be with someone as you engage your friend in conversation, and people are less likely to interrupt.

I find that walking with the kids is a barrier breaker (kinda like having a dog I suppose) and they have been my introduction to many people who I probably wouldn't have talked to otherwise.

CityKin said...

Julie, I guess I want to add, that it is OK to have your friendliness meter off. Hey, you have a life too. People should be allowed to just look ahead and move on without offending anyone.

Unknown said...

I have a question about the proposed streetcar...at the risk of sounding like a 50 yr old party pooper, I just don't get it. What's the benefit to the city and to those of us who live in the city and pay bucketfuls of taxes (and have for 30-some years)?? It goes from UC to downtown?? I've read your posts and I've read the info on the Streetcar blog, but I must be missing something. I would much rather put some $$$ into a rail system that could connect Western Hills to downtown, get to Rookwood Commons, get to Mt. Adams, something that would really connect the city in daily activities. I would LOVE to stop driving around. Quite honestly there's rarely anything downtown for me to go there, and the places I do go--Ballet, Pendleton the streetcar wouldn't hit, plus I'd have to drive from Clifton to UC, find a place to park to use streetcar?? That's not convenient or any "greener".Thanks for any light you can shed my way, AnnieH

CityKin said...

I too was a streetcar skeptic, and still think it could be done in a way that wouldn't work. I think the details are very important. I was a skeptic mostly because the cars run in traffic. However after seeing them in person, and seeing the way they promote walkable neighborhoods, I am a supporter.

This proposed first streetcar loop is not the total solution by a long shot. However, streetcar is the only feasible way I can see to start rail. All other types are much more expensive and very unlikely to ever get built. In fact a more comprehensive approach to light rail was defeated by voters eight years ago.

Although the Clifton route is still undetermined, there will definitely be a strong push to link Ludlow, Pill Hill, UC, the zoo, to OTR and downtown and Newport. The first loop goes directly by the Aronoff where most ballets are, and goes one block from the ballet offices and practice area at Liberty and Central Parkway. It touches the edge of Pendleton at Central Parkway. It also connects, all the major attractions/businesses downtown and in OTR. It is also a lifeline to Findlay Market.