Monday, June 11, 2007


My visit to the suburbs this weekend was once again a reminder that there is an entirely different world just outside of the city limits.

I stopped for some of the affordable cigarettes mentioned in the previous post. The gas station I went to had not locked the doors to the mini-mart, even though it was past eleven. I did not have to shout my requirements through four inches of bulletproof glass. Even stranger, the clerk behind the counter was a young female. This never happens where I live, as young people in general don't typically work in gas stations after dark. I had started to assume that after ten or so, no one worked at a gas station anywhere in America without that person getting a share of the profits from the business. There's just too much risk.

A few years ago, I think maybe at this same suburban gas station, I experienced another odd thing. I was attempting to refuel my car, and went inside since I wanted to pay cash. I told the clerk I wanted to fill the tank, but didn't know how much it would be. I offered to give him $20 and return to either pay the remaining total or to claim my change. He looked at me as though I were potentially dangerous, or as though my English was fatally flawed.

"Yeah," he said slowly. "We could do that...or you could just fill it up and then come in and pay."

I marveled at how trusting he was. Even a credit card purchase at the pump requires that you punch in your zip code for additional authorization at the stations near my home. It would never have occurred to me that I could pay after I filled up the tank.

Somewhere around this time I went with Craig to see a film at one of those 30-screen multiplex cinemas they grow out there. I had a feeling of unease as we stood in the ticket line, and had trouble identifying what it was that was making me uncomfortable.

At first I thought it was simply the sheer number of teenagers around us. I thought it was just that I was so unused to seeing large groups of kids or something. After a few minutes, the real source hit me.

"Why are there only white people here?" I asked Craig under my breath, like I was scared they would hear me.

Maybe that's how you know you live in a diverse city: when the sight of only white people in a crowd can be frightening, even though I happen to be white myself. I'm sure I blended right in to a casual observer.

I caught sight of a small cluster of Latin kids and relaxed.


Squirmy Popple said...

I know what you mean - my boyfriend (who is Puerto Rican) is constantly weirded out by the sheer number of white people in Scotland. Then again, this country isn't exactly known for being diverse.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Moon Topples,

Isn't that funny about small towns. Happens when I visit my mum and dad. There are about 3 stoplights in the town, and everyone trusts everyone. Kids walk all over the town alone until curfew, and then they sneak about... everyone waves when they pass you on the street.
And no one prepays for gas, in fact, they still take personal checks at all the businesses, without an ID.
Can you believe it?

An aside... I suggested to Mr. GoodThomas that he might hurry over to Shameless' and snap up one of the last lions, as I think he'd be a great addition to the circle. He replied that he's in a dry spell. I don't want to push, but if you think that it'd be right, maybe you could encourage him to join. I doubt he'd regret doing so.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

This post resonated with me. Here if you're interested

Julia Buckley said...

Iknow what you mean, I get that feeling when I go the countryside too.

Anonymous said...

I too share your feelings. Back home, when visiting my folks, not only did I get to pay after pumping, but the guy at the gas station had to look through binoculars to see my final purchase at the pump!

And I share the "white" feeling as well. The sad thing is that I feel it in my current hometown, every day of my life.

Nikki Neurotic said...

I also get a bit weirded out when I'm somewhere where there's only "white people". Just doesn't feel normal.

Liz Dwyer said...

I appreciate this post quite a bit. And look at all the stuff you are working on writing-wise. Keep it up.

Unknown said...

What surprises me about being out of Paris is that cars stop at crossings.