Friday, January 11, 2013

Life in what I think of as a big city

The other day, I called a friend to touch base and possibly schedule a get-together. He informed me that he wasn't feeling up to any revelry because his friend had died in the helicopter crash earlier that week. This caught me off guard as I hadn't heard about a helicopter crash, but I offered a sincere apology and my condolences anyway because that's what thoughtful people do. When I hung up, I really thought about it.
I've stated here many, many times that I'm from a small town up in Michigan. I've also stated here a time or two that I now live in Tampa, Florida, which, for all intents and purposes is a big city. I mean, we don't have Los Angeles-like traffic, but we have traffic. We don't have New York-like culture but we have museums and performing arts. We don't have Chicago-like nightlife but we have pro sports and nightclubs. So while sometimes it just seems like a small town with lots of people spread out all over the place, Tampa actually is a big city. Certainly when compared to small towns like the one where I grew up.
I mention this because we never saw a helicopter there. If we had, it would have been a pretty big deal.
"Did you see the helicopter that one time?"
"I sure did! It was incredible. I'll never forget it!"
"I didn't."
"Oh, so you're the one."
We definitely never had one crash. If we had, that would have undoubtedly become the defining moment for the town and everyone who had ever lived there, eclipsing every bit of history that had previously transpired. It's how people would have marked time.
"Hey, do you remember when the school caught on fire?"
"Which time, pre-helicopter crash or post-helicopter crash?"
"This would have been the time post-crash."
"Oh yeah. Hell of a lot of damage to the gymnasium!"
Having grown up in a place where something like a helicopter crash would have been all anyone ever talked about for years and years, I find it strange that I now live in a place where that doesn't even make a big enough ripple to make it into ambient small talk. Not that helicopters are just constantly falling out of the sky around here with such frequency that people don't bother mentioning it. But there's apparently so much going on around here that something that terrible doesn't merit discussion. Nobody I know was talking about it and I didn't hear it in the news. I find that kind of sad. No matter how big of a city you live in and/or how "Go! Go! Go!" your lifestyle is, you should be able to take a second or two to acknowledge something as terrible as a helicopter crash. Jesus, Tampa, that wouldn't make you a small town full of rubes
Then I started thinking, what if I'm the one who's all jaded and too busy? What if people were talking about it all day long and I was just so wrapped up in whatever it was I was doing (which I don't even remember now, illustrating how important that was) that I just didn't bother to notice? What if traffic was snarled that day because fleets of emergency vehicles were being routed to the crash site and I was just sitting there, getting mad, impatiently drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, oblivious to the fact that a freakin' helicopter had crashed?
It's impossible to tell at this point, but I might very well be the asshole here. I kind of hope I am, actually; it would restore my faith in the humanity of the city I've adopted as my hometown.

I, on the other hand, obviously need some work.

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