Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Anywhere is within walking distance, if..."

I had some gift cards left over from the holidays and decided to make my way out to the Pittsford Plaza Barnes and Nobel. I met Justin H. at the bus stop waiting for the #7. Justin is in the tenth grade and divides most of his free time between work and spending time with his family. He was on his way to Wegmans where he works as a cashier. After exchanging complaints about the recent weather we started talking about life and work. Justin's commute to work ranges between two to three hours, but he lives just under 8 miles away (an 11 minute car trip). He crosses two towns in order to reach his job and he doesn't seem to mind. "People where I live don't have any patience, when they have to go they have to go," Justin said. There is a less strenuous work ethic and the people are simply friendlier out in Pittsford.

Our long awaited bus arrived, but the driver informed us that the #7 doesn't reach Pittsford Plaza on Sundays. As discouraging as this sounded to me, Justin, cheerful and intent said, "We could walk." It was clear by his vivid geographical description that he had walked the five miles many times. Walking briskly through unplowed snow we stopped momentarily in front of Cobbs Hill Park where we could see sledders and their parents. I was surprised to hear that Justin had never gone sledding having lived in Rochester his entire life. We passed a bowling alley a while later and he remarked "I haven't gone bowling in a long while." As we checked our watches and walked faster I had a stronger sense of Justin as an industrious and optimistic young man. He soon warned me that we would have to walk without the sidewalk in the next leg of our walk.

Stephen Wright once wrote that "anywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." Justin is seems to be the type of individual who will make the time. The deficient transit system, as annoying as it may be doesn't seem to phase his effort. He is capable of working within his community, but he chooses not to and perhaps with sound reasons.

The crime rate of inner city Rochester is much higher than that of suburban Pittsford. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's estimates the zip code in which Justin resides has 800% more families under the poverty level than the entire town of Pittsford (12.1% compared to 1.5% in 2000). This may only be speculation, but it seems that Justin is willing to travel farther for the optimistic and successful crowd and atmosphere. To him, it may be a daily routine or an occasional chore but in the greater scheme, every trip he makes to his job he transcends economic and social boundaries.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Dear Philipp,

I find your writing most interesting, and I would like to return to your blog for more interviews.

I tried last week to send you an e-mail, but alas each time the message returned to me as a "failure." Since I do not like "failure," I can try again if you give me your workable e-mail. Actually, I was wishing you well with the "experts" coming to the conference for you photojournalism students. I am off to Virginia for some springtime weather on Sunday and will return on April 7.

Richard LeRoy
(We met in Java Wally's when you joined me at the table. I also like listening to stories and have a few of my own to share!)