A Matter of Perspective

So today I was dragged out of my house deep in the sticks and made to walk around the city for a good chunk of the day. Usually for me "the city" is New York, or once in a while Boston, but today it was Springfield, Mass. I had a job that entailed wandering around downtown taking pictures of a particular group of slightly older women I sometimes assist; we will leave it at that. I also spent some time wandering around alone, because that is how Mojo often rolls.

There was a time, perhaps around ten or fifteen years ago, when Springfield was Not Doing Good, as you might say. It was pretty high up there in the national crime stats, and everyone made a big deal about it, since it's really not that big of a city. I only drive in a couple times a year--downtown, anyway--and while there are places I would not want to be wandering about at three in the morning it's really not much different than wandering around any other city, even during the worst of the crime spree. Back then and even today, most of the occasional shootings tend to be gang- or drug-related late-at-night occurrences, and since I tend to not be all that actively involved with either--nor am I a night person--I find myself able to wander about during the day in relative safety. People are walking around, waiting for the bus, being city people.

I don't MIND cities in small doses, and actually enjoy the energy of wandering around great crowds and large buildings every now and then. So today I found myself wandering about Springfield, and I suddenly remembered an anecdote from a few years back, when it--and many other cities--were going through what you'd call a "rough patch".

My Favorite Husband at the time--well, he still *IS* my Favorite Husband; I mean what he was engaged in back then--had some sort of bidness obligation that required him to travel to Laredo, Texas for a week, and every day cross the border into Mexico to train people to do something. I would have LOVED to see that, because the Favorite Husband does not know enough Spanish to feed himself should he ever be stuck where it is the only language spoken, and most of the people he was training did not know English. Still, he managed, being the patient and intelligent person that he is, and blessed with patient and intelligent students. Which is all beside the point. What I mean to say is, he was down there during the REALLY BAD part in Tex-Mex history when the drug cartels were kidnapping people right and left, and bombing newspaper offices if they did not like an editorial, and just in general not being a very nice destination for tourists. The Favorite Husband, as tends to be his wont, shrugged this off and went anyway, and while he was warned repeatedly what to do and what not to do, he lived through it just fine and came home all la-ti-dah. He even went down like a year later to do something else.

And then at SOME point in the process, the company paid for three or four of its employees to travel up from Mexico to receive additional training at the Favorite Husband's office. Which is pretty much in an industrial park within the realm of Bradley International Airport, which serves all of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts should Mojo wish to fly anywhere. It's all industrial parks and tobacco fields and Connecticut suburbs, people. Hardly a hotbed of culture and nightlife, unless you think parking by the airport and watching the jets take off is the ultimate in excitement.

The students by now had improved their English, and the Favorite Husband his Spanish, so everyone got along swimmingly the first day. Everyone was happy, all talky and laughy, and at the end as they were getting ready to leave the Favorite Husband asked them if they had any evening plans. Immediately their countenances fell.

"Oh, we're not leaving our hotel," they said gravely.

Why on earth not, the Favorite Husband asked. You could at least go out to, I dunno, say, Applebee's or Friendly's or something. You know, just to get out of your hotel room. Have a Fribble.

Ohhhhh no, they all said. WE ARE NOT LEAVING THE HOTEL.

The Favorite Husband assumed they were unnecessarily cautious, coming from a Mexican border town with all the kidnappings and the drug cartels and the shootings and whatnot. So as politely as he could, without being a total jerk about it, he pointed out that this was America--a part of America that's about as far away from Mexico as one can get while still being in America--and here they need not fear drug cartels or kidnappings or whatever they were afraid of at home.

"Are you kidding?" they asked in astonishment. "Where we live is QUIET! We Googled this area before we came up. You have HARTFORD just to the south and SPRINGFIELD just to the north! They are freakin' WAR ZONES!!! ROVING GANGS wander the streets!!! WE ARE NOT LEAVING THE HOTEL FOR ANY REASON, except to come here! We can't WAIT to RETURN to the SAFETY of our quaint little Mexican border town!"

This was the most exciting perception I have heard of my neck of the woods since one of the supermarket tabloids labeled Northampton LESBIANVILLE, USA. (And that was DECADES ago.) So "don't mess with Texas"? Pffft. More like, DON'T MESS WITH US. Because, like, umm, we have SPRINGFIELD.