2022-02-21 16:37:01 (UTC)

Prompt 156: Visible City, Unseen Suburbia

156. When you think back to your hometown, you imagine the smell of lilac and honeysuckle plants. It helps you to get over your current smells of garbage, urine, and sewage that lurk around many city street corners. How do you best deal with these prevalent urban odors and what other hygiene problems have you experienced city-side?

I suppose I could discuss some aspects of how the city where I work has failed to adequately address COVID protocols and containment. But the entire United States has failed at that, and besides I'm just not in the mood.

For some reason, the topic that comes to mind regarding this is that of drug overdoses in the 'burbs where I grew up. Kids could find ways to drink, and it was primarily in my senior year of high school I had experimented with alcohol. It was to the point that I had my favourite liquor: Rumpel Minze, a peppermint schnapps. I can't recall who would buy it for me but I suppose I had friends or acquaintances who were of age and "were cool" so they would do creepy stuff like buy alcohol for high school kids.

I spent most of my adolescence and teenage years in the donut of the suburbs surrounding the city where I currently work. Graduated high school in 1995. It was about 80% white folks, 20% other ethnicities. One would expect this place as a typical region for those living out the American Dream or something like that. From what I understood at the time, the crime rate was low, employment was high, and drinking beers was what people did on weekends to pass the time.

The year after I graduated high school and started college however, I somehow learned that one of the seniors from the class of '94 died of a drug overdose. Apparently, heroin was something not just relegated to "the city." The story goes that "Alan" had been partying with friends of his that weekend, then when a friend showed up after not hearing from him for a day, he found Alan lying on the floor of the shower stall, water still running.

Ever since that point, I've seen more and more frequent allusions to hard drug use in the surrounding counties. It has approached "public health concern" status in the surrounding counties, to the point that every other billboard on the main state routes going through the area promote something about drug addiction treatment. As a rule, I don't associate with heavy drinkers and/or hard drug users, and since I stopped playing in bands I stopped hanging out in bars. Beyond that, I have a feeling I provide an air of "uptight attitude" sometimes when the subject arises, and in general people involved in counter-culture or legal grey areas tend to avoid me.

"Deaths of despair" are a thing, now that I'm older. I see a lot of people in a rough way nearly every day, whether it's at the day job or when driving through the city. It was easier to see during the years when I commuted by bicycle, as I would take "shortcuts" - sometimes agains my better judgment - and would witness people and places that a typical car commuter would just zip past.

Driving by car is a luxurious way to remain ignorant of one's surroundings and the potential negativity of city life.

It could be that the automobile is a strong metaphor for life in the suburbs. Traversing the city in an SUV is a way to take advantage of the benefits a city can offer, while at the same time not have to deal with it. At the same time, driving an Escalade or some other massive, fancy vehicle to and from work provides cover for all manner of negative behaviours, further reinforcing the "picture perfect lifestyle" assumed to be in the suburbs.