At the crack of dawn (7 AM), I hopped in my car to see what a real commute would be like if someone in Uptown was foolish enough to hire me to patch COBOL programs. Admittedly, it is the week before Labor Day, so traffic might be on the light side. The lack of road capacity is somewhat offset by the courteousness of the drivers. If you drive like you’re in Boston or New Jersey, you eventually learn to relax. Everything is slower in the South. If you’re a type A person popping Alex Jones energy pills to stay awake for 72 hours straight, this place is not for you.
My destination was Romare Bearden Park.
I made the trip without using a map, didn’t make any wrong turns and didn’t get lost in Downtown, err…Uptown. I arrived about 7:45 and those parking spots were completely empty. My instincts were there must be something I was missing, but I couldn’t see anything. I did manage to barrel right through a red light I didn’t see, partly because it was illogical to have a light there.
There are two relatively new 20+ story apartment buildings built on what had been the headquarters of Duke Power when I worked there in the 1970s. They are relatively similar, asking $1400 a month for a one bedroom apartment. Part of the purpose of the trip was people watching to see who lives and walks around the area. There are two more buildings under construction around the edge of Central errrr… Bearden Park.
So I pulled out my iDevices and proceeded to Poké. I fed $2 in quarters into the meter to give me 1 hour and 59 minutes until the parking enforcement would be hovering to give me a ticket. These smart meters take credit cards – this ain’t Mayberry RFD, and I know from New Haven CT, they literally send messages to indicate the time a specific meter will be running out. I think the ticket is $25
So the first thing that was obvious is a LOT of people in this building have dogs. My cursory observation is most were professional women or girlfriends of athletes (the baseball and football stadiums are very close) walking briskly with tiny foo-foo dogs – as a substitute for having a relationship with a man and having children 😉 No Surprise – this is not a place to raise kids. It’s the area where you get blitzed on wine every night and can’t figure out why your life sucks. Too judgemental? Oh well.
So once I was satisfied my car was legally parked and there were no obvious hazards, I ventured across the street, tempting a jaywalking citation. I started walking around a bit and bumped into 4 people sitting in a group – 3 men and one woman. I chatted them up a bit and asked if it was OK if I sat with them. We talked about NASCAR, Charlotte, places to eat, Pokémon, the park, etc…
At some point, they volunteered “you know we’re alcoholics, right?”… To which I said “I know”, and that I was on the street selling newspapers at 10 years old, so I knew they were not a threat. I would rather hang out with them than the woman staring into space walking her pedigree dog. The alcoholic woman particularly needed a beer (it’s now about 8:30 AM). I declined their requests for money, which were totally expected. They didn’t get aggressive, and I excused myself. The parking meter was ticking down. They did warn me the park is a no smoking zone. I rolled my eyes. 🙄 How far North Carolina has “progressed”.
For $8, you can get a day pass. If you hold onto a bike for more than 30 minutes, the meter starts running more, up to $24 a day. Drop off locations are scattered around, up to maybe two miles away from the central core. If the bicycle turns up missing, you owe $1,200. If you buy an annual membership for $85, they give you a free helmet. If you’re 18+, it is your decision whether to ride with or without a helmet.
I circled around to the kiosk, not sure what I would find. What I found was Glyndis. She had a broom and picker upper thingy to pick up trash, but there was nothing to pick up, except maybe dog poop. The alcoholics said that dogs are not supposed to use the park as a bathroom. She seemed bored and approachable, so I said Hello. That’s what people do. I immediately connected with her. We started talking about the neighborhood and when I mentioned I had worked at Duke Power, she told me she had worked in that building as a security guard in the 1980s.
We started chatting about why I was there, and how I was looking for a safe place to walk and build up my strength (I had my cane with me). After a while, I indicated I needed to sit down and she walked with me to a seat. We started comparing notes about our walking problems – she is 62 and had been in the military and one of her knees has a brace and is a problem. She gave me advice about canes and encouragement to get more active. Her mother is in her 90s and still going strong. When it was time to stand up, I struggled a little and she grabbed me to help me up. She wasn’t doing this because it was her job or someone expected it of her. I can’t tell you how good that made me feel. I wonder if she is married? 😗
THIS is exactly why I want to be in Charlotte. We had immediate recognition of common memories and experiences. She immediately caught on that I wasn’t a New Yorker who avoids eye contact and expects her to pick up dog poop.
By 10 AM, the spaces were starting to fill up, mostly construction workers from the two buildings under construction, and a city employee who probably works for the building inspection department. The parade of doggy poopers did not let up.