There is something to be said about people who live in a city. And by that I mean, car-less, street walking, metro-taking individuals who brave the dark alleyways each and every night to get to where they've got to go. These are people I call: urban dwellers.
Urban Dwellers take no crap. They are schooled in "Street Smarts 101": they know when to be on guard, when to relax a bit, what metro stop you just don't stop at unless you're with a big group of people or you have two cans of Mase in your messenger bag. They know that to live in a city of any size it becomes a love-hate relationship. And it's definitely not for everyone.
I don't claim to be a full-on urban dweller because I grew up calling home a suburban neighborhood in Towson. But even so, I'm not a stranger to the streets of Baltimore, and more recently not a stranger to the streets of DC either. I'm not saying that Baltimore is my favorite place to be, in fact I have devoted myself quite humbly to the task of leaving Baltimore within the next few years, God willing. But in the same breath, I can tell you that Baltimore is not always a live episode of The Wire either.
Unless...okay, well unless you're not from here. Which is exactly what happened to the new guy at work.
I had been noticing that the corner office as you first walk into our department had been empty for the past week or two. This was extremely unusual, and yet not something completely startling mainly because the person who occupies that office had started just three weeks before.
With all my usual deadlines and goings-on throughout the day, it would slip my mind to ask someone about what had happened to the guy in the corner office. He seemed to have been doing pretty well with his department, and I hadn't heard any bad things about him through the office gossip and occasional "watercooler conversations". So where was he?
It wasn't until maybe well into the second week that I walked into my boss' office and stepped right into the conversation she was having with another one of my coworkers.
"Well, it's just so sad, you know?" she said softly, leaning her head towards my coworker who was sitting in a chair in front of her desk.
"Yes, it's unfortunate," replied my coworker.
"What's so sad?" I asked, after be silent for a whole milli-second, which is long enough, in my opinion, to wait before jumping into a frivolous office gossip conversation.
"You didn't hear?" my boss exclaimed, pushing back into her seat as if this was the biggest news since slice bread and how could no one have told me?
"About what?" I said, nudging her to tell me more as it was obvious she was now bursting at the seams with this unsolicited information.
"About (his name will now be...) Gary. About what happened to him last weekend," she started, and then let her voice drop a whole ten octaves as she pushed herself forward, "He got jumped and mugged in the city and had to go to the hospital."
Now the idea of being jumped in Baltimore is pretty damn plausible. The probability of it happening to anyone in any city is decidedly high. But the fact that it happened to this poor man after only living in Maryland for five whole weeks? Well, that just plain sucked ass.
"I can't get over that," I replied.
"Well, I've heard that he had some broken ribs, a broken arm and they broke his nose and he had to have some reconstructive surgery on his face," she went on.
Chills came over me when I heard that. When late last year we had found out that Kuya had gotten mugged in DC, we were all pretty scared. But he hadn't gotten seriously hurt. He just had his wallet and money taken away. This sounded brutal.
I suddenly felt the urge to apologetic to Gary at my first sight of him whenever he returned. Baltimore is a place I go my hometown, I am not particularly proud of it or anything, but seriously, I felt terrible that this happened to someone who had only been living here for a little over one month.
"That really is horrible," my coworker chimed in, "It sucks that he got so banged up before his health insurance kicked in!"
As horrible as that statement was, it was the truth. And I can't imagine having to have such extensive surgeries in a place that you just moved to, in a hospital you're not familiar with, with no family or friends around, and on top of that, have no way of paying the medical bills.
Once I had learned of Gary's mishap, I thought back on his first few days here and what our first conversation had entailed.
I remember introducing myself, and being excited to know that there'd be another "young person" working here. Gary is only 27 years old, and that makes him only 5 years my senior. In this banking business, that is pretty young.
Gary talked about growing up in some small town in Maine. He knew everyone's name and they knew his. His neighbors were his parents' best friends and life long pals type of deal. He just came from a truly rural/suburban area that was real home town grown.
And then...moved to Baltimore.
Again, not to say this is a bad city in its entirety, but if you look at it in contexts with the comparison to a Maine township, it is a pretty extreme jump.
Gary literally came here with no new friends, and a totally clean slate. And I feel really bad for the guy that his first months here turned out as crappy as they did.
But he has since seemed adjusted, and I keep encouraging him that the whole city of Baltimore isn't that bad, but you just have to pick out the good parts. Just like any other city.
Hopefully he'll take up my offer, and I can take him somewhere we can grab a few drinks and be surrounded by people that will actually give him a better handle on what Baltimore, geesh, what Maryland as a state, has to offer him.
-=EDIT=- Sorry guys I originally started to write this on Feb 11th, and so you can see what a delay that I have in my posts. Free time is definitely hard to come by these days.