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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

That thing you're doing with your feet - what's that called?

Apparently nobody WALKS in downtown Dallas. Correction - nobody even goes outside! At first I thought I was just imagining things when I asked people if the b&b was within walking distance of downtown and they just looked at me incredulously like I'd just asked if I could bite their kneecaps. "You want to WALK downtown?" Hmm.... apparently walking is for sissies.

Not to be deterred, I walked anyway. And, in almost a Twilight Zone surrealness (I'm sure that's not a word, but whatever) I was stunningly alone on the streets. The first night, I chalked it up to the fact that it was Sunday evening and I was primarily walking through the business district. But even when I walked past hotels and rows of apartment buildings there was NO ONE outside. For most of the walk, for as far as I could look, I was the only pedestrian. Not surprisingly, in the first 10 minutes alone, two out-of-towners stopped to ask me directions because I was the only person they could see. Pity the poor Russian backpacker who was looking for a cheap hotel - he's probably still looking.

On Monday, I thought surely things would be different. But no - more of the same. Nobody. Anywhere. Okay, so perhaps it's because it's grey and rainy today. But Tuesday, when the sun came out, more of the same. I walked through the heart of the business district at lunch time, and you could have shot a cannon and not hit anyone. I sat by a fountain where there were hoardes of benches to sit on (the kind of place that would have been buzzing with hot dog vendors and office workers with cabin fever in downtown Winnipeg on a sunny Spring day), and I was all alone. Not a soul anywhere.

Where IS everyone? They make it LOOK like there are people downtown. There are lots of schwanky office towers and parking lots full of high-end vehicles, but there are no people.

At 4:00, when I walked back to the b&b, I thought "surely now, when people are going home, there will be few people on the street". But no, other than a few smokers, a couple of people who'd stepped outside to get better cell phone reception, and a few blue collar workers who had to take transit (gasp! practically unheard of around here), I was still alone. I have no idea how people get from the office to the vehicle - perhaps they have underground tunnels.

I headed for the area on the map that looked like the only green space downtown. Maybe in a park... Oops. No more park. Just a massive construction site. I guess they don't need greenspace if nobody goes outside.

Bizarre. Tonight, I finally found a little more buzz in the West Village (close to my b&b), the place where the well-heeled go to be seen. I found a lovely bookstore and another lovely restaurant, so I've had another refreshing evening. But I don't think I need to come back to Dallas again any time soon. At least not downtown. I prefer a place with a little more pulse. This place reminds me of a story I wrote in junior high about a space alien who arrives on earth and thinks that the vehicles are the earthlings because he never sees any people. GET OUT OF YOUR CARS PEOPLE - there's life to be lived! What a surreal contrast this has been to my last trip! In Ethiopia, in what seemed like the most remote place imaginable, you could stop the vehicle and within minutes be surrounded by people. Though that can get overwhelming too, I think I'm more at home there.

In other news - the conference was much of the same. A few mediocre speakers, a few really bad ones, and one or two that are worth remembering. Lance Armstrong is much better than I expected. I just thought of him as an arrogant s.o.b., but he's actually a passionate, inspiring, and easy-to-listen-to speaker.

I've lit my little candle, I've got some good music on, and I'm enjoying my last night in this lovely room. Tomorrow I meet my family in Minneapolis. Yay! Sweet dreams.

14 comments:

Linda said...

Maybe they're just used to having nice weather all the time and don't appreciate it as much as us...

I loved your line, "and they just looked at me incredulously like I'd just asked if I could bite their kneecaps." That's hilarious! Hope you have a great time in Minneapolis.

Lucia said...

What's so weird about this is that here in Wisconsin, we walk around all the time, in the snow, in the rain. If we can't walk, we strap on skis. And they don't walk where the weather is decent?!

Vicki said...

I wish I lived close enough to work to walk.

When in Mexico I walked everywhere. Everywhere. I had some really good conversations with God during that walking time. We miss so much by driving by it. I know we have to, we have to live in this world, function and make a difference so we must use vehicles, but we miss so much by driving by it. By not looking people in the eye as we pass by them, by just being too busy to breath.

have fun with your family. Be sure to take pictures.

oshee said...

I can understand the no walking thing a bit anyway. Here in Phoenix for half the year, if you don't have to walk you don't. It is just too hot. So, we all get out of practice of even considering it as a possibility. If we want to walk, we drive to the park. I know downtown here people walk around for lunch and when there are events people are out all over, but it isn't part of normal life.

Janet said...

That's one thing I love about life in Britain -- walking. People don't do much of it in Houston, either -- but to be fair, Houston is like the other person described Phoenix. It's just too hot much of the time.

I walked a lot in Manhattan, too. It's the best way to get to know a place.

Good for you for not being too discouraged to walk in Dallas.

Safe travels...

Janet

Joyce said...

They were probably all at the gym, trying to keep physically fit...

Anvilcloud said...

In one of Bill Bryson's books, he talks about this phenomenon. I think he even encountered it in a relatively small city. It seemed like people would get back in their cars to move a half a block. But I'm sure that lots of people walk plenty in some areas.

Pamela said...

that is totally freaky....
like you thought the city was evacuated for another hurricane or something ha

Whippersnapper said...

Of course, everyone in Texas packs a handgun in their purse, so maybe people are just too scared to leave their cars... (I think I would be!)

Have fun in Minneapolis!

Liz said...

At least you've learned that Dallas isn't your cup of tea, although it's probably hard to get the flavor of a city in just a couple days.

Jones said...

I've been to Dallas (and all over Texas) a few times and you're right, nobody walks anywhere! I remember staying in a subdivision and realizing there were no sidewalks. Why would they have them when they don't use them? Bizarre hey?

Jones

Gina said...

I think that people in the US probably walk less than Canadians. I'm totally guessing, though. And a lot of times, in a "downtown" area, there is simply nowhere to really go, just some restaurants and hotels and offices.

Stephanie said...

From what you've written, I would say that explains why three of the top 10 overweight cities in America are in Texas. Well, that and all that darned good Southern food. :)

Karmyn R said...

That makes me sad. Perhaps everyone there is really just a robot. Dallas is no longer owned by the living.


Hey - congrats on your win at Marnie's and your "cool prize"