Friday, April 6, 2012

Every ghetto, every city, and suburban place I've been

New location alert. It isn't Baltimore, or Philadelphia, or even San Francisco. It isn't even a city. It's a suburb. A suburb of Philadelphia, but still a suburb.
Outside of Philadelphia along the Media/Elwyn line (the R3 for those who refuse to change with the times) is Swarthmore, PA. Home to Swarthmore College...and that's about it. There are nice houses, little shops, a coffee shop, a church, a this, a that. Nothing is open past 9:30pm. It's a hip and happening place. Also, it's dry. The closest bar is 2 miles away. According to, "Swarthmore is a tree-lined residential community of distinctive homes and quiet neighborhoods, anchored by the campus of Swarthmore College. At the center of Borough is a downtown core of unique, independent shops and services." To summarize, Swarthmore invented the yawn and underage drinking. In tandem possibly. 
During my brief moment of gainful employment in this town, the most interesting thing that happened to me was telling teenage boys not to pee on the side of the building in broad daylight. Well, that was before the exciting day when I found this inside my place of employment:

On the ground, resting with pride and a certain sense of knowing it didn't belong, was this weave. I almost swept it up, thinking it was an unwieldy clump of dust. I caught myself just in time; I pretended I didn't notice it, tucked my phone in my apron pocket, and took a picture while "wiping down" a counter or something. Overjoyed by my discovery, I found work tolerable that day.
The only thing that made my day even better? This:
No, I wasn't glad to see that even in Swarthmore someone made a mistake like littering. See that black smudge? More weave. Xmas had come late, but just in time for me.
While I will not disclose the name of the store for the sake of my pride (who gets fired these days?), I will talk about Swarthmore.
That place is tiny: it's 1.38 square miles, and the population is about 6,100 people. The median income is $119,315. That's a pretty penny. Almost everyone is Catholic, or of a mainline Protestant division. Obama led the election in Swarthmore in 2008 (61% to 39% for McCain). An impressive 8% of the population is using alternative energy. That's an impressive amount for a tiny borough.
Here is the racial breakdown: 79.6% White, 9.4% Asian 'alone', 4.8% Black 'alone', 2.9% Hispanic, 2.5% two or more races. and 0.8% other. Has anyone figured out what other means yet? When you do, let me know. It is not very diverse in terms of religion, race, type of reusable shopping bag, or socioeconomic status.
Again, there are a lot of very pretty homes and clean apartment complexes. Lawns and exterior paint jobs are well maintained. Lots of families go out for breakfast or take walks together on Saturday and Sunday morning. When I went to  the municipal building to pay my $5 parking ticket, the woman working in the office gave me an apple and told me to have a beautiful day. It's like living inside of a Stepford wife.
Here's another anecdote about Swarthmore: one my co-workers (just one) was a black woman.  She still works there, and is all around pretty cool. There are a handful of black families that frequented our place of employment, and event more white parents with adopted black children. The following story involves non-black people who have seen black people before. On a daily basis, my coworker has white people ask about her hair. She wears it natural, and this is a never ending source of amazement for a number of white patrons. They ask how she maintains it, if they can touch it, if she can teach them how to care for it (if they have an adopted child who is black), etc. Many of these questions seem intrusive, rude, and sometimes condescending because they are. They're forcing an appreciate of "other people" to the point of being offensive. Swarthmore is full of people with good intentions who have stumbled down the wrong path for a brief moment.
Do you understand my shock at seeing these lost pieces of weave?

 Thank you to Swarthmore for reinforcing the status quo
Thank you to Lauryn Hill for "Every ghetto, every city"


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