The perils of living where you work
Submitted by murph on 2 December 2007 - 10:58am. events | life | planning | ypsilanti
Probably every planner has at some point used the phrase "live where you work". It has a few contexts - one is a general recommendation that commuting by car has negative social consequences, and that therefore people ought to live in the community they work in. Another is more equity-minded - that communities should guarantee enough affordable housing supply that the people who are working in the community can have the choice to live there; this is particularly used in reference to public servants in gentrifying communities, such as teachers, policemen, etc, but also for the people who serve you coffee and pump your gas. Finally, it's a exhortation to planners themselves that living in the community one plans for is the best way to comprehend that community, as well as building the community's trust in you because you've essentially put yourself in harms way for any mistakes you might make.
I've always subscribed to the "planners ought to live in the communities they work for" theory, but it has its downsides. Not least of all is that you can't really turn off - wherever you go, people will be asking you about planning, so it's hard to get a mental or emotional day off without leaving town. Thus far, though, I've always found that the people who corner me at the food co-op or Bombadill's are people who are asking questions in a friendly vein. They're interested in what's going on around town, they know I might know, and they know me well enough to be comfortable asking. I don't mind that at all. There are plenty of people around town who probably have reason to be sore at me for my work related capacity, some of whom I run into, but they typically avoid eye or other contact.
So getting cornered and harangued yesterday at the Shadow Art Fair was somewhat new to me. Here I am, my recently purchased beer in one hand and recently purchased art in the other, coat over my arm, searching for Linette to summon to the Severed Unicorn Head Superstore table, when I get flagged down.
"Say, you're one of those planners, aren't you?" says the guy, "Richard something?"
"I am. I'm sorry, I don't remember your name?" (he gives his name; I recognize him, but not in regards to anything work-related I can remember anything about)
"Have a seat. I'd like to know, what's next for Ypsi? What are you up to?"
"Well, actually, I'm trying to find somebody, so..."
Um. Right. So I admit, I did in fact miss a beat at this point while trying to decide between fight or flight.
"Well, actually, we're trying to take over the water tower right now to use as an Army recruiting center."
His eyes narrow, "Is that so?"
"Sure is. We're going to turn the entire tower into a giant cannon, actually, so that we can shoot new recruits directly over to Iraq. Really, it's going to be great for Ypsilanti! Students are Ypsi's biggest renewable resource, so we'll always have more to shoot over, and the Feds will give us enough money to solve our budget problems!"
I then made my escape while he and his companions were laughing, completed my Linette-finding errand, and had a much better conversation with Jennifer from Henrietta Fahrenheit. Still, the exchange angered me enough that I had to leave the Fair.
I did go back later, with more folks in tow - the SAF is too good to stay away from. I found some good new stuff from the usual SAF suspects, found out about someone I know's secret double artist life, met two people who knew who I was (in a positive fashion) whom I'd never met, and talked to somebody about setting up a community garden in Ann Arbor's Island Park. So, thanks to you all for helping restore the weekendness of my weekend.