Catching Up with Progress

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There are many wonderful things to be gained by uprooting yourself and moving to a new place. I think many would argue it is the only sure way to ever appreciate where you lived previously. There are also many advantages to moving to a city if your prior homes have been in rural areas. All that being said, it would seem to me, that many of these advantages are fading out of existence.

I find the matter best summed up by an old friend of mine. He had the unfortuante (his assesment of the matter) lot in life of being uprooted from a glorious west coast city. To make matters worse he was then placed in a small New England town. For those of us who knew him during this time of transition an almost sing-song refrain of his came to haunt us. Whether one spoke of a song on the radio, a new movie being released or even a new article of clothing, what came from his lips was a disappointed commentary in the form of “We had that back home six months ago.”

As you can well imagine the glamour of such statements soon grew tiresome long before their believability came into question. Now, years later, I find that there may have been more truth to his melancholy observations than I once believed. Smaller films are often released in major cities before they are released in small towns throughout the country. Radio stations in the major cities of this country do often play music that becomes popular before every radio station adds it to their top ten list. That being said so many facets of the digital age have reduced these occurrences, or better put, have made it instantly accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Upon moving the the fair capital of this country I had assumed that New England most assuredly did not have the supermarkets that were six months ahead of the rest of the country. Although I cannot speak for other towns and cities, I can say that the Safeways and Giants located in and around Washington, DC are sadly lacking in comparison some three years after my inital inspections. I say this admitting that I have not scoured every supermarket in the area. I do make this claim having been to over a dozen and I feel for this study a sample of that size should suffice.

There is no denying that progress has been made since I began my investigations. It is only fair to say that some of the stores have improved by leaps and bounds. It is only truthful to say the even the best stores leave much to be desired.

The simple rules of city life dictate a few aspects of the shopping experience and I do my utmost to not hold these against the stores. That the stores must be smaller (whether in actual size or simply made to feel cramped and cluttered) is understood as part of city living. That fellow shoppers should drive their carts as they drive their cars, which is to say without regard for fellow motorists and the rules of the road, is tolerated for there is no other course of action. That the staff offers little help or instruction to misguided and lost shoppers coincides with the belief that city folk certainly need no such help and is intended to fill one with a sense of pride. These things I accept as part and parcel of the shopping experience.

What is surprising and disappointing is the lack of selection of goods. Even with recent incorporations such as an international foods section (or as an alternative is some stores a health foods section) only the most simplistic shopper will be able to find all their needs met in one of these stores. This would most assuredly be understandable, if, as one would suppose, other shops and stores were nearby to supply these missing reagents.

This is not the case though. Most often the distances between stores is as great as ten or more miles and equating that into city travel-time can greatly inflate the matter. In short, the general point of this post is to call attention to one of the oddities of city living. We have huddled close to one another, presumably, not for warmth or protection, but because of the opportunities this close proximity will provide. Oddly enough I find myself driving the same, if not greater, distances when I shop for groceries, clothing or books as I did when I lived in a very rural area. Which begs the question, why do we live here?

For myself the answer is simple, my wife attends one of the universities here. For many others, especially those with children I cannot help but look and wonder, “Why are you living here?” The cost of living is much greater, the homes are smaller and the threats, whether they are speeding automobiles, poor air quality or the threat of violent crime must surely be balanced by something. Again I wonder, what could that be?

Unlike my former friend, and alas, his time was before the internet, I no longer worry about such things as missing the latest and greatest developments in the world. This is not because I live in a metropolis, the movies I wish to see still often do not play near me, but because the Internet has made location that much less important. So now the groceries can be delivered to the door, movies can be shipped for a flat rate and items in specialty shops can be located and processed by one company connected to many. Many say the world has shrunk and I am not sure this can be argued. I am still looking for the argument to live in these urban centers where so little seems offered as a means of recompense for the inconveniences of city life.

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